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Power of Now

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” —C.S. Lewis

by Jo Valenti, BSN, RN, Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board

The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Kenosha County website——lists 300 famous people with mental illness. The list contains names such as Karen Carpenter, Ozzie Osbourne and Winston Churchill. Reading through it makes you realize that mental illness did not stop these highly successful people from accomplishing amazing things in their lives. One of the people on the list is actress Winona Ryder, who suffers from insomnia, aquaphobia and depression. She briefly checked herself into a hospital when she was 20, because she was suffering from depression, anxiety attacks and exhaustion, resulting from constantly working on films. The website quotes Ryder as saying that she does not regret opening up about her depression because women have told her that it helped them. Isn’t that the way we all should feel? Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental illness often prevents us from not only admitting we have the problem, but more crucially, getting the proper help so that we can learn to live successful lives with the problem.

Each of us can change society’s view of mental illness by doing, as C.S. Lewis, quoted above recommends: We can start where we are and change the ending by erasing the stigma associated with mental illness from our own mind. We need to realize that having a mental illness does not make a person less than others. Mental illness can be successfully treated. Millions of people with mental illness are productive and happy. Mental illness is not a moral defect or a weakness of character. As long as stigma continues, all of us are affected because stigma prevents all of us from realizing our full potential. So, let everyone be part of the solution: Erase stigma from our thinking and we all benefit.

The Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board actively promotes awareness of stigma and the need for public education regarding mental health and addiction. The Board meets monthly, and the public is invited to attend. Please refer to the meeting schedule on the Cumberland County website for meeting dates. The Board is also seeking new members. Interested persons should send a letter of interest and a resume to Melissa Niles, Cumberland County Human Services, 70 W. Broad Street, Bridgeton, NJ 08302 or

Minding Your Mind