REMOVING THE STIGMA STORY
"Uniquely Designed With Purpose"
The vision of Removing The Stigma (RTS) began in 2013, when Denise Holcomb, now Founder and Executive Director, was empowered to share
her story in a documentary film Living With Bipolar, for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The challenges of mental illness could be seen early in Denise’s family starting with her mom having a “nervous breakdown” and then Denise at 14 years old and starting to face her own challenges, with problems in school, childhood molestation, alcohol, drugs, and abuse. Denise was never diagnosed with a mental illness until her early twenties, but even at that time, she was wrongly diagnosed. It was not until her early thirties (and well into a second marriage) that she was diagnosed correctly with Bipolar Disorder II. By that time she had fought and survived several suicide attempts, overcame alcoholism and drugs, and became a born-again Christian, but not without continual visits to the hospital year after year. Denise took it upon herself to study and learn about the diagnosis she had been given. Her study, therapy, her strong faith in God, and the belief that He still had a plan for her life and healing give her the strength she needed to live.
During her journey from mental illness to wellness and recovery along with the devastating death of her brother and her only son, who died by suicide, Denise began to see in herself the strength and boldness to fight to remove the stigma which attaches itself to mental illness and suicide. The documentary produced about her living with bipolar was one way to bring attention to the stigmas associated with mental illness but the formation of the organization provided the resources to remove the stigma around mental illness and suicide.
Since the official inception of Removing the Stigma (RTS) in 2013, it has taken small but powerful steps to bring a voice to stigma, mental illness, and suicide by engaging the community and being a resource for education, advocacy, and peer support. It is RTS’s vision that all people, from every walk of life, experience and realize the hope of being mentally and emotionally well.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
“I know Denise as a valiant soldier in the fight for mental health awareness. Her advocacy stems from her personal journey with bipolar depression as well as her experience as a caregiver for families who also struggle. Having survived the loss of my husband to suicide, I share Denise’s advocacy efforts and have had the privilege to join her at podiums and on video to share our stories and encourage others to join us in crushing the stigma surrounding mental illness.”
“Ms. Holcomb is a fierce advocate for fighting the stigma of mental illness and mental health treatment in her community. She is compassionate, professional, and dedicated to the dual missions also of suicide prevention and mental health care. She is genuine and relatable, and her own life experience allows her to offer hope to others suffering from mental illness, and her voice breaks the silence of those who have been afraid to speak."
Suzanne M. Jarm MSN, APRN, BC
Adult Psychiatry /Mood Disorders
“I love how Denise is being transparent and I am impressed by how she has conquered bondage over such a taboo subject. Mental health is not discussed in the black community. I support her in breaking down the barriers to healing. Much needed healing from years of physical, mental, and spiritual systemic abuse. I publish the Cleveland Observer and Denise has volunteered her time and efforts to the platform. The Cleveland Observer is convicted to serve the urban community with resources.
Denise is a vital Observer team member.”
Ron Calhoun, Publisher
The Cleveland Observer Newspaper