In our efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness we need to get to the root of the problem. Fundamentally, people stigmatize others because they judge them. Possibly without recognizing it, some people are prejudiced against those with mental illness. They may think that those with mental illness are somehow less worthy. Mental illness throughout human history is fraught with confusion. Confusion regarding the causes. Confusion about prognosis. Confusion about the ability or lack thereof of people with mental illness to participate in society. Mental illness has been glamorized and even villainized in books and media of all sorts.
What can we do to overcome these problems? Education is key to understanding not just the causes (which might actually not be known) but the treatments for mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a wonderful resource. NAMI is the largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
The NAMI website (nami.org) contains helpful information including signs and symptoms, treatments, and research. For information on getting involved with local NAMI please contact Beena Bhatcar at firstname.lastname@example.org. NAMI also now has a local Facebook page: facebook.com/profile.php?id=100091511506002
In Cumberland County, efforts to break free of the stigma attached to mental illness have been ongoing. This column is one effort under the auspices of the Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board to dispel the stigma associated with mental illness. We want to get people talking. Mental Health is everyone’s responsibility. People with mental illness and their families are encouraged to reach out for assistance without the fear of being negatively judged.
The Stigma-Free Art contest will resume in September. For those of you who submitted art for the contest, thank you for your efforts. We are reserving your submissions for the fall. We are looking for a more robust response and so we have decided to extend the submission period into the 2023-24 school year. Please look for updates in the Cumberland County schools and in this periodical.
In the words of Mother Theresa, quoted at the outset on this page, judging other people prevents us from loving them. We should be able to put ourselves in the other person’s place and ask, “How would I want to be treated if it was me?” Certainly, no one wants to be stigmatized. No one wants to be prevented from reaching their full potential. No one wants to suffer alone. If we are to overcome the stigma associated with mental illness, each one of us must make the effort to educate ourselves and overcome whatever prejudice we might carry in ourselves. Please join us in the effort to reduce stigma associated with mental illness.