Weather Forecast


Shatter stigmas about mental illness

Stigma is defined in the dictionary as "a mark of shame or discredit - a stain."

Unfortunately, people who are coping with a mental health condition have to deal with stigmas every day. People judge them in all kinds of negative ways, making wrong, hurtful assumptions that only compound the problem, which is an illness, not a defining personality trait.

May is Mental Health Month - a good time to reassess one's own thoughts about mental illness and to expose the many myths and stigmas that cloak these treatable conditions.

Stigmas, according to the Mayo Clinic, lead to many negative consequences for those with a mental illness: Lack of understanding by family, friends, colleagues or others; difficulty finding housing; bullying, physical violence or harassment; health insurance that doesn't adequately cover mental illness; and the belief that those with mental illness will never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that they can't improve their situation.

Even those who have a mental illness need to remember that they are not defined by their conditions.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that instead of saying, "I'm bipolar," for example, one should say, "I have bipolar disorder."

Here are facts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Minnesota:

-Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning.

-Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing; anyone can be affected. This includes neighbors, coworkers, friends, children, parents, siblings or other relatives.

-With proper treatment and support, most people can recover from depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder and other serious mental illnesses.

NAMI of Minnesota offers free educational classes, support groups and resources for families and individuals living with a mental illness. For information call 651-645-2948 or 1-888-NAMI-Helps.

NAMI is a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses and their families through its programs of education, support and advocacy.

According to NAMI, one in four adults experiences a mental health disorder in a given year, and the U.S. Surgeon General reports that 10 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders.

They deserve help, compassion and care - not stains.

This editorial represents the opinion of the Alexandria Echo Press.