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Posts Tagged ‘stigma’

Stigma is Scary – People Living With Mental Illness Are Not

One of the things I like most about Halloween is that it offers such a wide range of ways to participate and have fun. Horror movies not your thing? You can stick to fun activities like carving a jack-o-lantern and handing out candy to trick or treaters. And then there are the endless costume possibilities. You can be anything from a superhero to your favorite movie character to some very obscure cultural reference or the more traditional choice of ghost or vampire.

So with that range of costume possibilities and ways to have fun in mind, it’s always deeply upsetting to see Halloween become an event where mental illness is misrepresented and stigmatized. Some haunted house attractions are centered around “asylum” themes, or have a “haunted psych ward” component. Actors wearing straight jackets or wielding weapons chase visitors and shout lines about hearing voices. The message is very clear: Mental illness, and people who experience mental illness, are scary, violent, and to be feared.

In recent years, several costumes have been pulled from the shelves following pressure from mental health advocates. Unfortunately every year there are still a few new inappropriate and offensive costumes that pop up and make their way to stores and online retailers, and regretably they are eventually seen out in public at bars and parties. And each time one is sold and then worn, it perpetuates the stigma and misconceptions around mental illness.

These interjections of mental illness into Halloween are neither fun nor harmless, but keep in place harmful stereotypes. These attractions and costumes continue pushing the idea that a person living with mental illness is violent and should be avoided. Discrimination is still a problem for people living with mental illness, and every day those who experience symptoms choose not to seek help for fear of mistreatment. These depictions also hurt those who have experienced mental illness, especially those who have been hospitalized. Their deepest fears about what society thinks of them are realized when they see illness become a subject of fear-based entertainment.

It would never be acceptable to have haunted houses set in a hospice or cancer wing of a hospital, nor would we find cancer patient costumes to be appropriate. It’s important that we all speak up when we see mental illness being stigmatized, and stand up for those who have experience with illness and are negatively impacted by the perpetuation of stigma.

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October 7-13 is Mental Illness Awareness Week

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The first full week in October is recognized as Mental Illness Awareness Week, and both Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) are making stigma their topic to focus on for the week.

NAMI has launched CureStigma.org. The site provides a quiz that helps visitors assess their own stigma towards mental illness, and provides stories of hope and other resources.

Mental Health America similarly hopes to turn the focus on reducing the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. Their site encourages everyone to take a mental health screening and share the results with others to show that checking up on your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, and that it’s okay not to be okay. They also encourage social media shares using #ThingsPeopleSaidAboutMyMentalIllness to spread awareness of the kinds of comments about mental illness that are hurtful.

While things are getting better, stigma remains a barrier standing in the way of more healthy discussions and solutions surrounding mental health. With 1 in 5 Americans affected by a mental health condition, stigma creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment.

For more information on Mental Illness Awareness Week, including graphics and suggested social media posts your organization can share, visit http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/MIAW and https://www.nami.org/miaw.

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September 9-15 is Suicide Prevention Week

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Today marks the official start of National Suicide Prevention Week, with September 10th honored as World Suicide Prevention Day.

Suicide education, awareness, and prevention organizations worldwide are taking this opportunity to promote a few key themes and messages around suicide prevention, notably:

  • Every person has a role to play in suicide prevention. The Lifeline works to empower friends, family members, coworkers, and acquaintances to recognize the warning signs and know how best approach the topic of mental health or suicide, rather than simply encouraging people thinking of suicide to call the Lifeline. The #BeThe1To campaign campaign works to empower the public at large to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and know how to help someone who may be suicidal. This campaign also reminds us that suicide is a public health issue, and that we all can take responsibility for preventing suicide given the right knowledge and resources.

  • Smashing stigma continues to be the mission of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They take the opportunity of Suicide Prevention Week to encourage people to share their stories and experiences, and reject the stigma and prejudice that cause people to suffer in silence. Similarly, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is promoting the power of connection, and openly talking about mental health in everyday conversations.

  • Suicide prevention is a year-round effort. While it’s important to bring attention to the topic of suicide during special events and recognition dates, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) has launched its #AAS365 initiative that focuses on suicide prevention each day of the year. They advocate continuously spreading awareness, advocating for research funding, developing innovative and effective treatment tools, being kind, and helping to educate others on things like resources and warning signs.

It is heartening to see how each year National Suicide Prevention Week grows in its reach and the number of people participating. It is clear that people are becoming more willing to talk about suicide, reach out to loved ones, and have conversations with others about it. One can see the initiatives outlined above in action and ultimately these conversations provide some of the best hope for reducing suicide rates.

To all the suicide prevention helpline volunteers and staff, researchers and doctors, advocates, people with lived experience, and suicide loss survivors — we thank you for your lifesaving work and for raising your voices this week and all year-round to help save lives.

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Violence is an infectious disease

child with backpack

We as a nation are experiencing the profound anguish and fear of another school shooting. Again mental illness becomes the too-easy target.

For the longest time, I have argued that mental illness and mass shootings are two different subjects.

I was wrong. Mental health belongs in this conversation, but we’re thinking too small.

The truth is: Even if the U.S. were able to eliminate mental illness as a factor, the nation would reduce gun-related crimes by less than 5 percent, according to CDC data. The truth is that people living with mental illness are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.

Another truth: Violence is an infectious disease, and this nation is in the throes of a full-scale epidemic.

I was wrong because this unremitting violence has created a national mental health crisis. Every school shooting exposes more people to trauma, and not just those directly affected. Our first responders? What we demand of them is simply inhuman.

We’re traumatized also by the murder of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, and by the hundreds of acts of violence in this city every week.

Violence doesn’t have to happen near us to affect our mental wellness. NAMI Chicago’s Ending the Silence high school program helps students from around the city who are struggling with real trauma simply because they live here.

One of the hardest things we ask people living with mental illness to do is raise their hands to ask for help. The stigma society places on mental illness is so pervasive and so corrosive that for many the risk is simply too great. With every shooting, they see how society handles mental illness. And what if a person living with mental illness finds the courage to seek help? They’re met with an inadequate system.

The scary reality is that if our mental health system fails when one person raises his or her hand, how can it hope to help the entire country?

The United States needs a moon-shot level effort to bring our mental health system out of the 19th century. As a nation, we have a childlike grasp of the subject. Popular culture prizes wellness and living in the moment, but we still talk in hushed voices about “mental breakdowns.” We expect grade-school kids to know first aid, but commonsense mental health techniques are a mystery to college graduates.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For centuries infectious diseases terrified humanity, until science found the microscopic culprits. For centuries, we spoke in a whisper of the Big C, until immunotherapies and other treatments have given us hope of ending cancer’s terrible grip.

Violence is an infectious disease, and we know it affects us in a physical way. Researchers are learning more daily about brain function and how integral mental health is in physical well-being.

It is past time that we as a nation have an adult conversation about mental health. For years, my colleagues in the field have developed solid, actionable plans. It is past time now to act on them. Let us work together on local, state and national levels to build a robust mental health system—not because just one person needs help but because we all do.

NAMI Chicago’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those whose lives are affected by mental illness. That’s all of us.

This message first appeared in an email to NAMI Chicago’s supporters and is reprinted with permission from Alexa James, MS, LCSW who serves as Executive Director of NAMI Chicago. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol.

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Join us for Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let's Talk

Wednesday January 31st is a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!

This annual event draws attention to the topic of mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness, and use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and watching the Bell Let’s Talk video featured on their social media pages. On Facebook, watching the video or using their special profile photo frame raises funds. And Snapchat users can watch a video or use special filters to help raise funds. For participating in these various social media activities, Bell donates 5¢ to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!). Bell customers can also participate by texting or making calls. Find out more about how to take part.

Bell Let’s Talk has had a profound impact across Canada. Since the campaign began in 2011 there have been nearly 730 million interactions around Bell Let’s Talk, with over $86 million donated to mental health initiatives. And 4 out of 5 Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues since Bell Let’s Talk launched.

To learn more about Bell Let’s Talk, check out their website and toolkit that contains everything you need to participate. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and tweet along with us to raise awareness and remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!

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DMAX Clubs aim to end mental health stigma on college campuses

Did you know that 87% of college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and 39% feel so depressed it is difficult to function? (Source: American College Health Association, National College Health Assessment) DMAX Foundation seeks to improve those statistics by creating social clubs with a mental health focus on college campuses throughout the nation to enable students to talk to each other about how they are doing, and to help each other.

DMAX Foundation was started by Laurie and Lee Maxwell, after the tragic loss of their son, Dan, to suicide at the age of 18. Dan had been plagued with mental and emotional pain for eighteen months, without relief, before he took his life. He tried to get better in every way possible. He and his family saw physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, tried medications and dietary changes, and conducted tireless research. One thing the Maxwells were not able to do is speak out. It was too difficult to confide in friends and relatives about what was happening inside their family.

Thus DMAX, named in Dan Maxwell’s honor (DMAX was the nickname his teammates gave him), was founded to eliminate stigma and encourage safe and caring conversations about mental and emotional issues in our youth. To accomplish these goals, DMAX is establishing Clubs on college campuses which provide environments for all students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing and how they can help each other. DMAX Club officers get the opportunity to build valuable leadership skills, are trained to recognize mental health emergencies, learn how to listen (versus give therapy), and extend the campus’ mental health resources by making referrals to the Counseling Center. While other college mental health organizations emphasize the importance of having conversations about mental wellness, DMAX is putting it into practice, providing the space and the tools for Conversations That Matter to take place.

DMAX Foundation is currently focused on establishing clubs in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas, with a plan to expand all over the country in the future. DMAX Clubs have been recently established at Penn State University and Drexel University, joining Elon University, which began in spring 2016.

You can help DMAX establish clubs throughout the nation by:

  • Joining DMAX’s mailing list
  • Making a tax-deductible donation
  • Volunteering
  • Attending DMAX events in the Philadelphia area
  • Sponsoring one of its events
  • Connecting DMAX Foundation with schools and students interested in starting DMAX Clubs

For more information about DMAX Foundation and opportunities to get involved, visit www.dmaxfoundation.org

Guest Blogger Kris Kelley serves as the Outreach and Administrative Coordinator for the DMAX Foundation.

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Join us for Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let's Talk

Wednesday January 25th is a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!

This annual event draws attention to mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness, and use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and watching a video on the Bell Let’s Talk image via Bell’s Facebook page. For participating in these various social media activities using the hashtag, Bell donates $.05 to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!). Bell customers can also participate by texting or making calls. Find out more about how to take part.

To learn more about the impact of Bell Let’s Talk, check out the video below. And check out the Bell Let’s Talk website for more information and a toolkit with everything you need to participate. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Tweet along with us to raise awareness and remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!

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Join us for Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let's Talk

Today’s a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!

This annual event draws attention to mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness, and use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on Twitter. They can also share the Bell Let’s Talk image via Bell’s Facebook page. For each share of this image, and each Tweet using the hashtag, Bell donates $.05 to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!).

To learn more, check out the video below which summarizes five years of Bell Let’s Talk. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Tweet along with us to raise awareness and remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!

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Bell Renews Commitment to Bell Let’s Talk, Increases Funding

We’re very happy to help spread the word that the Bell Let’s Talk initiative has been extended for five years, with funding increased to $100 million!

Read more here. You can also read Bell’s announcement here.

This is excellent news for Canadian mental health initiatives. Congratulations to all the agencies that benefit from this campaign, and we look forward to participating in Bell Let’s Talk for years to come!

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Helplines continue to see call volume increase following Robin Williams’ death

Back in August we blogged about how many crisis lines had been in the news recently speaking about suicide prevention and a spike in calls following Robin Williams’ death.

It turns out that for many helplines, there continues to be an increase in calls compared to what was seen before the actor’s suicide on August 11. This week Newsweek filed a report stating that several helplines still haven’t seen their call volume return to normal.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, whose number was widely shared and publicized after Williams’ death, saw calls to their network increase from around 3,500 per day before the incident to 7,400 the day after. Still two months later they’re seeing about 200 more calls per day than what is considered standard. Other helplines report similar increases.

You can read the full article here. Has this increase in calls lead to more suicides being prevented? We hope so, but as the article says it will be awhile before we’ll have any definitive answers on that. In the meantime we can hope that the raised awareness about the work of suicide hotlines, and the outpouring of support and publicizing these numbers, has indeed resulted in more people getting help.

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