Curing Stigma to Help People with Mental Illness Get Treatment, Recover
Sunday, October 07, 2018
October 7 starts Mental Illness Awareness Week
More than 10 million U.S. adults live with a serious mental illness, and three times that number cope with less severe mental health disorders. Add to that as many as 12 million children, and that’s nearly one in five people of all ages dealing with mental illness.
People can recover, but too often they don’t seek treatment because of another pervasive problem: stigma. During Mental Illness Awareness Week, NewBridge Services urges everyone to join the movement to end stigma so those who are suffering get the help they need.
“We need to be supportive of everyone dealing with mental illness, understanding that they did not choose it, any more than a person diagnosed with a chronic physical ailment,” said Mary Vineis, NewBridge Services’ director of Community Response and Education. “Too often, even family members and friends feel anger, not empathy, toward a person whose moods and behavior are not typical,” Vineis said. “They suspect the person is faking it or they just want them to snap out of it.”
Of the more than 43 million adults with mental illness in 2016, 57 percent had gone without treatment in the prior year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. “Many people feel shame and fear, alienated from their families and communities,” Vineis said.
The onset of mental illness typically happens in childhood and young adulthood. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Too often, years or decades pass between the first signs and the start of treatment.
NAMI has launched the Cure Stigma campaign to change attitudes toward mental illness. “Greater public awareness can remove barriers,” said Vineis, offering advice to reduce stigma:
- Learn the facts about mental illness and when you hear or read something that isn’t true, speak up!
- If you suspect someone is suffering in silence, urge him to get help.
- See the person, not the illness (and don’t label anybody by an illness).
- Push for legislation and policies that improve access to treatment.
- Urge your community to become a Stigma-Free Zone.
- Support efforts to provide community resources.
The toll of mental illness is devastating. According to NAMI:
- Individuals living with serious mental illness are more likely to have chronic medical conditions, and their life expectancy is 25 years shorter than that of the general population.
- The U.S. suicide rate is at a 30-year high. More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition. About 20 veterans die by suicide daily.
- One quarter of adults staying in homeless shelters live with serious mental illness; one in five adults in state and local jails have had a mental health condition.
- Mood disorders such as major depression bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization for people ages 18 to 44.
NewBridge trains people in Mental Health First Aid, teaching them how to respond to a mental health crisis in adults and adolescents. Participants in the 8-hour training learn to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, trauma and psychosis, as well as substance abuse.
Morris County is a Stigma-Free Community, and the county Department of Human Services has created a Stigma-Free website that provides information to the public and resources to anyone dealing with mental illness.
National Depression Screening Day is Thursday, Oct. 11. Anyone can take an anonymous screening here.
If you or someone you know struggles with mental illness, contact NewBridge Services at (973) 316-9333 or email@example.com.
NewBridge Services, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is a premier provider of counseling services, housing and educational programs in northern New Jersey serving more than 8,000 adults and seniors last year alone. NewBridge treats mental illnesses and addictions; teaches skills for coping with stress, grief and challenging relationships; builds and manages affordable housing; offers school-based programs that teach children and adolescents resiliency skills for healthy emotional development; helps young adults succeed in their education and prepare for careers; and supports seniors so they can remain independent. Throughout its more than 55-year history, NewBridge has remained true to its mission of bringing balance to people’s lives by tracking shifts in communities’ needs and providing innovative, effective programs to meet them.