Nikyra McCann Creating Still Standing Enterprise to Reach out to Others on Overcoming Mental Illness

Spreading the Word on Mental Health

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Nikyra McCann is an advocate for people with mental health issues who leads by sharing her own journey.

By Jonathan Gramling

Nikyra McCann’s story is one of triumph over tragedy in the area of mental illness. Around 13 years ago, Nikyra was diagnosed with a mental illness.

“I remember times being out of my mind and my mom was walking right beside me down the street, making phone calls to mental health facilities, all sorts of things,” McCann recalled. “I came from 18 hours in isolation. I came from being trapped in a room alone with someone peeking through the window. I came from being strapped to a flat board being carried by six people in the air. I came from the struggle. I came from the mental institutions. At first, honestly, with me, it was like I didn’t believe it. I felt like they were just lying. They were just trying to put this on me. This is not who I am.”

McCann did accept it and then worked hard to overcome. I met McCann about eight years ago when she was on the road to mental health and produced a film about her struggles, which she showed at Market Square Theater. While she exhibited a warmth as we talked, there was also a slight distance there that may have been the effect of her medication.

But eight years later, McCann is engaging as ever, in the moment with a genuine smile on her face with a sense of gratitude that she has overcome.

“I’ve been stable for four years now, really doing everything that I need to do,” McCann said. “And so that is probably when things got better, when I finally said, ‘Okay, if I have this, if this is what I am going to be going through, I’m going to make the best out of this. I’m not going to let it hold me back. I’m not going to let it chain me. I’m going to chain it at the neck and run forward and push forward towards greatness.’”

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit and society started sheltering in place, McCann prepared for her physical and mental health. She was determined not to go back to where she.

“It really had an impact on me, I can say,” McCann said. “I felt more isolated than I was before.

I maintained by trying my best to stay in connection with all of my resources like NAMI and my board meetings, staying on top of doing things on Facebook to interact with people, making phone calls with members of my family and other things. I joined the virtual world.”

McCann was elected to the board of NAMI-Dane County as the pandemic hit.

“When I was voted in to be on the board of directors, it wasn’t COVID-19 at all,” McCann said. “COVID-19 happened during the voting process. At first, they were to meet me in person and vote me on. But then it happened virtually where they had to interview me. And so my whole board experience has been virtual. A couple of weeks ago, we had a fundraiser, the Gala, and so I met everyone finally for the first time in person. It was so refreshing just to connect in person.

I’m still here.”

McCann wants to branch out to share her story with other people in the Madison area and beyond.

“Mental health stigma is just believing that they are alone or people look down on people with mental illness and think that they can’t be great, they can’t make it out of those circumstances, they aren’t going to be anyone, they are just going to be on medication, and they can’t reach their full potential,” McCann emphasized. “But I believe I’ve overcome the stigma, the stigma of, ‘You’re just going to be doing this for the rest of your life. You’re just going to be on medication, sleeping every day and that’s it.’ But, I said no. I want to make a difference. I want to break that stigma. I want to let people know that they can get through it just as I did.”

McCann has created Still Standing Enterprises as a vehicle to facilitate opportunities to speak throughout the Midwest to any group that would like to sponsor her. She currently has a GoFundMe campaign going on called Standing in Stability to fund her expenses while she spreads the word about overcoming mental illness and achieving mental health.

“I needed help in the beginning,” McCann observed. “That’s why I wanted to do my business, so that we can break the stigma, the stigma of you are not alone. There are others out here who are going through what you are going through. And you don’t have to go through it alone. Together, we can get through it. The topics I speak on include being mindful, standing in stability, overcoming loneliness, the power of the word no and stress management, which is a big one that my mom is really into.”

Nikyra McCann is hoping that the community will empower her so that she can empower others in their journey toward mental health.

For more information about McCann’s fundraising campaign, visit www.gofundme.com and search for Standing in Stability. The fundraiser ends on July 30th.

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