Tri-County Anti Stigma Campaign: "Stop the Judgment - Start the Healing," a campaign to reduce stigma related to mental illness, was launched in September.
This year-long campaign is being conducted in conjunction with the Trumbull and Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Boards. The campaign features television ads as well as live interviews of people in recovery from mental illness on WKBN's morning news programs.
Maureen Boals, the Columbiana County MHRS Board Recovery Assistant, and Thelma Rist, MHRS Board member, were featured in the "person in recovery" interviews. These interviews can be accessed on the WKBN website, www.wkbn.com. Click on "First News This Morning," then on "Mental Health."
Stigma assumes many forms, both subtle and overt. It appears as prejudice and discrimination, fear, distrust, and stereotyping. It prompts many people to avoid working, socializing, and living with people who have a mental illness.
Stigma impedes people from seeking help for fear the confidentiality of their diagnosis or treatment will be breached. As with most serious illnesses, support from family and friends is often crucial in recovery. People with heart disease or diabetes usually do not hesitate to seek support from family and friends as they cope with their illnesses; unfortunately, the isolating effects of stigma often prevent people with mental illness from seeking this support. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) statistics, one in five people worldwide has a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. 450 million people currently are living with such conditions, placing mental illness among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Treatment works, and people recover, but nearly two-thirds of those with a known mental illness never seek help from a health professional. NAMI Stigma Busters is a network of dedicated advocates across the country and around the world who seek to fight inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness. Whether these images are found in TV, film, print, or other media, Stigma Busters speak out and challenge stereotypes. They seek to educate society about the reality of mental illness and the courageous struggles faced by consumers and families every day. The goal of Stigma Busters is to break down the barriers of ignorance, prejudice, or unfair discrimination by promoting education, understanding, and respect. Each month, close to 20,000 advocates receive a NAMI Stigma Busters Alert, and it is read by countless others around the world. Go to www.nami.org and click on "Fight Stigma."
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a resource center to promote Acceptance, Dignity, and Social inclusion (ADS). SAMHSA's National Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaign encourages education and support from friends. The opportunity for recovery from mental illness is more likely in a society of acceptance. Many Americans are misinformed about mental illness and respond negatively when confronted with a friend's mental illness. For more information, visit www.stopstigma.samhsa.gov.
A recent survey conducted by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA) of Ohioans revealed the following:
- 45.5 percent reported they had a friend or family member who has substance abuse problems.
- 49.4 percent were aware of a friend or family member with mental illness.
- 43 percent agreed with the statement that "Alcoholism and addiction are a weakness in character" while 13 percent felt that "Mental Illness is a weakness in character."
- Respondents between the ages of 18 through 25 and those who were 65 and older were also more likely to agree with the above statements.
Cheri Walter, CEO of OACBHA noted: "One of the things that I was most astounded by was the number of people that refused to take the survey and make comments like, 'this issue doesn't affect me' or 'I don't care about those people.' In some cases, the fact that people adamantly refused to take the survey based on the topic was more telling than the survey itself."
For a complete report of the OACBHA survey, go to www.oacbha.com; click on "Newsletter" under "Current Publications," and scroll down to the January 2010 issue. Friends can learn more about mental illness and how to support a friend who is living with a mental illness in his or her recovery process by visiting www.whatadifference.org.
For additional resources, call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at 330-424-0195, or check out the board's website at www.ccmhrsb.org.