La Viola Ward is a mental health speaker and advocate. After obtaining her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, she made it her mission to share her experience living with mental illness and hopes to help to reduce many of the stigmas associated with mental health — especially within communities of color through her work.
There’s a saying in Spanish that goes “ponte las pilas,” literally meaning “put the batteries in. I heard this phrase from my dad all the time growing up and even now as an adult. If you heard someone say “put the batteries in” in English, you’d probably think about getting a remote control or a toy car, but dad was actually telling us to “put the batteries in” to ourselves.
Mental Health? What is that? I grew up questioning what mental health was. Growing up I did not learn in school or at home that one must care for their mental health. Conversations around the topic were little to none, and when the conversations presented themselves they were surrounded by stigma. I am a proud Mexican immigrant and recognize that my culture has a long way to go in addressing mental health. Growing up I watched and heard stuff in the media that taught boys to “toughen up,” and that if you showed emotion it was a sign of weakness, something to be ashamed of.