What can each of us do to reduce and eventually erase the stigma associated with mental illness? In this column we have discussed the need for education and for an awareness that mental illness is not an indication of lack of character, nor is it a disgrace. Notably, many celebrities have opened up about their own mental illness. They realize that in order to reduce stigma and help people, word needs to get out about their own journeys. It helps us to cope when we have real-life examples to illustrate that? Here is an example:
Dwayne Johnson /aka “The Rock,” stated in a YouTube video:
“I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it; you’re not going to be the last to go through it. And oftentimes—it happens—you just feel like you’re alone. You feel like it’s only you. You’re in your bubble. And I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK. It’ll be OK.’ So, I wish I knew that.”
Since the prevalence of mental illness in the United States is one in five adults (statistic from NAMI), there is a very good chance that someone close to us has a mental illness. If we really care about that person, we are motivated to be that support that Dwayne Johnson talks about. How can we be supportive? We can educate ourselves about mental illness, specifically the kind our friend or family member has. Be sure to use reliable sources such as NAMI. (NAMI.org). Locally the Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board provides a comprehensive list of resources on the County website: cumberlandcountynj.gov/. Understanding what a person with mental illness faces—their challenges, their complex issues—will go a long way in transforming us into that support person they need.
If we can develop this sort of empathy for our friends or family who have a mental illness, we can turn around those feelings of isolation and hopelessness. The effort is worth it. Everyone should have the best opportunities to succeed in life. Let’s all take the initiative to end the stigma and be the change in the world!
The Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board promotes stigma-free initiatives through educational efforts like this column. The Board provides leadership and guidance to Cumberland County in the development, maintenance and improvement of mental health and addiction services by planning, implementing, and monitoring such services.
The Board is looking for dedicated members. If you or someone you know is interested, send a letter of interest and resume by e-mail to Melissa Niles, firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail, Cumberland County Human Services, 70 W. Broad St., Bridgeton, New Jersey 08302.