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Madison Gibbs

What health topics would you choose to educate other people about?

Meet Madison Gibbs. She's Miss Black USA 2015, and she uses her platform to raise awareness about health topics that matter to her. Top on her list is mental health. She wants to help people understand that mental health is just as important as physical health. And if you need help dealing with a mental health condition, that's okay. Read our interview with Madison to learn how she's starting more open and positive conversations about mental health.

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How old are you?

I am 23 years old.

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What's it like being Miss Black USA?

Being Miss Black USA was life-changing! I was led and surrounded by wonderful women, including the staff and other contestants, who were all fulfilling their purpose. I received a scholarship to help fund my legal education. I travelled across the nation as a motivational speaker, and I even visited The Gambia, a country in West Africa, and Athens, Greece. For me, none of this would have been possible without being Miss Black USA. Being Miss Black USA has made me a more well-rounded and grounded young woman.

Before I won Miss Black USA, I was Miss Black North Carolina. As a state queen, I had a duty to educate myself about the issues affecting the African-American community and develop plans on how I would contribute to solutions. One of the topics I chose to focus on was mental health.

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Why do you think raising awareness about mental health is important?

Raising awareness about mental health is more than important — it's essential. One in five teens is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, according to the Office of Adolescent Health. If something feels wrong, I don't want people to feel ashamed to get help. That decision alone can cost someone his or her life. We have to help people feel comfortable about reaching out for help and connect them with easily accessible resources. There's also the issue of cost — some people may not get help because they can't afford to see a therapist. I want to speak out because I think we need to do more for people who struggle with mental health conditions. I don't think they're any different from physical conditions. If you have diabetes, you need help from professionals to manage your disease. The same can be said for mental health. We all need a little help sometimes.

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Do you think there's a stigma about mental health conditions?

Yes. I've found that mental health conditions are often associated with the word "crazy," and people are often labeled as "being weak." In fact, people with mental health conditions are often very strong, having to deal with daily challenges to manage their symptoms.

I think we need to eliminate these words and ideas for our conversations about mental health. Instead, we need to create an open and honest environment where people feel safe and respected.

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Tell us about your work with the "Are You Ok?" campaign.

My work with the "Are You Ok" campaign, on a national level, kicked off the day after I won Miss Black USA. This campaign is all about starting a conversation. It challenges you to simply ask someone, "Are you OK?" This opens the door for someone to talk. Sometimes, that's just what people need. We don't know what is going on with somebody until we ask.

I've even taken the challenge in my personal life. I also try to increase awareness by sharing statistics and celebrity interviews on this topic, and by creating videos and presentations about mental health.

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What's your advice for girls who may feel they need some help dealing with their mental health but are too scared to ask for it?

It's not an easy battle. Take that leap to seek help. It's so important to not let a mental health issue go untreated. It's not something you have to deal with on your own. Help is available.

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What are some ways you like to destress?

My favorite way to destress is playing Candy Crush! It's my favorite and only game on my phone. I love strategy games. Sometimes I also take a nap, light candles and take a bath, watch my favorite show, or call a friend! I also think that praying for comfort and strength can be helpful.

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You have such a busy schedule. How do you find ways to balance everything?

I balance everything by making a daily checklist of the things I want to accomplish for that day. This includes homework assignments, class, lunch breaks, and down time.

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Learn about taking care of your mental health and different types of mental health problems. Also, find information about going to and paying for therapy and talking to your parents about emotional problems.

Content last reviewed December 1, 2016
Page last updated December 1, 2016

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.