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Posts Tagged ‘stigma’

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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World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10th each year, promotes raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. Worldwide much still needs to be done, including better education and awareness to combat stigma, and improving access to quality, affordable care.

This short film follows filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston on her journey to uncover mental health stories spanning the globe. It’s striking how universal these experiences are. The video also touches on the movements that have been made to help remove stigma from mental health, and how countries worldwide are committed to addressing mental health needs, according to the World Health Organization’s mental health action plan for 2013-2020.

For more on World Mental Health day, we thought you might also like to check out:
The World Health Organization
Five ways we could improve our mental health today, by former heavyweight champion Frank Bruno
World Mental Health Day 2014: The misconceptions broken down

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Mental Illness Awareness Week

miaw-logo

People face many barriers on the path to receiving mental health care. Some of the most common are:

  • Properly recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental illness
  • Knowing where to go for help
  • Availability of services
  • Cost of accessing services
  • The stigma associated with accessing the service
Stigma continues to be one of the toughest barriers to take down.

Every day people are still made to feel ashamed for having a mental illness in spite of these being legitimate medical issues. We’d never dream of making someone with cancer feel as though they did something to “deserve it.” We couldn’t imagine looking at someone with diabetes and telling them that taking medication everyday to stay healthy wasn’t normal. I can’t comprehend telling someone with a broken leg, “If you put your mind to it you can walk without using crutches.” And yet these are the attitudes that those living with mental illness are still facing every day. Some people still fail to see the medical legitimacy in mental illness, causing many to be too embarrassed or ashamed to seek help.

Courtesy of SAMHSA below are some suggestions for messages to share the helps reduce stigma:

Support People with Mental Illness –
Society needs to understand that people with mental illness are not the “other,” they are our family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They deserve understanding and support.

Learn More about Prevention –
Behaviors and symptoms that signal the development of a behavioral health condition often manifest two to four years before a disorder is present. Effective prevention and early intervention strategies reduce the impact of mental illness.

Help is Available –
Treatment and mental health services are available and effective. Local crisis lines can be a wonderful source of emotional support and an access point for referrals to professional mental health treatment. If they are in crisis or suicidal, Americans can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Canadians can dial their local crisis centre if they are suicidal or in crisis. Local helplines, crisis lines, and distress centres, or 2-1-1 Information and Referral lines can also be excellent sources of support and referral.

Recovery is Possible –
Most people are able to successfully overcome or manage mental illness, including serious mental illness, with the right treatment and support. Spread the message of recovery.

So during mental illness awareness week, I hope that we’ll all recommit ourselves to educating others about mental illness, and continue to chip away at that stigma. Helplines are on the front lines of this fight. Every day, people who haven’t yet talked to their doctor or a loved one about their symptoms choose to reach out to a helpline. Being greeted with the understanding, knowledge, and validation that helpline workers provide plays a huge role in reassuring someone that it’s okay to seek help.

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iCarol clients in the news

Since the news of actor and comedian Robin Williams’ suicide last week, the number of times that suicide helpline numbers have been shared via social media is astounding. The number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has undoubtedly been the most common but more localized numbers all over North America, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere have also been shared. This has spurred an increase in call volume to suicide prevention lines everywhere and we wanted to take a moment to share some of the news stories we’ve seen in the previous week.

A report on NBC Nightly News about depression in America featured interviews with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline staff in New York City

The Support Network in Edmonton, Alberta saw a 7% increase to calls last week

This local report in New Jersey highlights the increased call volume seen at CONTACT We Care

The Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles has seen a 95% increase, virtually doubling their calls in the last week

We’re sure this collection of articles barely skims the surface of the experiences of helplines everywhere in the past week. Was your helpline featured in local or national media recently? Please leave us a comment below or send an email to and we will add your article to the list above.

We commend the great work that all of you have been doing in the face of increased awareness and media attention. Out of this notable loss millions have been exposed to the realities of depression and suicide, and your staff and volunteers have admirably stepped up to the challenge and been there to greet people with warm and empathetic listening. Especially for those seeking help for the first time you’ve provided comfort and reassurance that they’re not alone.

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