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“Community Art Project Recycles Old Shoes to ‘Stomp Out’ Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness”

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This January 14, 2015 StateCollege.com article talks about a project involving recycled sneakers that came about after the artist lost a sister to suicide. The artist hopes to make these “Stompers” to work towards stomping out the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“The stigma of raising a mentally ill child”

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This January 26, 2014 CBS 60 Minutes report on the stigma faced by parents of mentally ill children.


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“Don’t ignore mental health stigma”


1212mentalhealth-RW (Photo credit: Robbie Wroblewski)

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This June 12, 2013 article on the Visalia Times-Delta website talks about the need to stop ignoring the mentally ill in hopes that we’ll go away or otherwise disappear.

“Obama hosts event to reduce mental health stigma”

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This June 3, 2013 article on the Philly.com website talks about an event held by President Obama to attempt to combat the stigma surrounding mental illness.


“Stigma and Mental Illness”

Video Link This video was uploaded to YouTube on October 3, 2012 by IWKHealthCentre.  The video is a Canadian video, but I felt that the message was one that is universally necessary to be heard, not just in Canada, but in the United States and I assume many other places in the world as well. The example of a visit to the emergency room for a mental health crisis vs. going to the emergency room for a broken ankle is something I’ve experienced first hand here in Pennsylvania, in my case it wasn’t a broken bone, but rather sprained knees as a result of sports related injuries, but still there was a difference in how I was treated before and after my mental illness was disclosed.

“Yes, Fear Not”

This letter to the editor was found in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the following address http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08338/932228-110.stm  I would like to thank this person and others like her who are willing to take a stand and show that folks with mental illnesses aren’t freaks or modern day “leppers” so to speak.   It’s people like the author of this letter I would like to offer a huge ‘Thank you!’ to for trying to make my life and the lives of many others a little easier in regards to being able to be part of our communities.

Yes, fear not

The Nov. 20 Perspectives piece by Dr. James N. Jacobson deserves supporting comments. His commentary, “Unfounded Fears,” highlights the continuing misconceptions that individuals with mental illness may be dangerous and violent and pose a potential threat to others. This misconception is largely the result of media hype when a violent act is completed by a person with mental illness.

A large number of research studies have consistently found that 80 percent of Americans believe that people with mental illness are very likely to commit violent crimes. Many other studies reveal that male gender and a younger age are more strongly predictive of an individual’s likelihood of becoming violent than the presence of mental illness. People with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. These media distortions lead to further stigmatization, ostracism and alienation of the mentally ill.

The majority of the uninformed are also not aware that mental illness, including schizophrenia, the most disabling of all mental illness, is a brain disorder and treatable with medications and other therapies, which allow those persons to function productively in jobs, marry and have children, socialize and lead relatively normal lives.

With the passage of the mental health-parity bill, requiring insurers to provide comparable coverage for mental health care as for other medical conditions, a large gap in our health-care system may soon be closed.

Advocacy and education need to be ongoing to close the NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome. I wonder if Vincent van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln or Ernest Hemingway, all of whom suffered from a mental illness, would be welcome in your neighborhood?

Bethel Park

“Unfounded fears The mentally ill need understanding not stigmatization”

  I found this letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  I felt it was very well written and I commend the author of the letter for taking a stand on the subject of stigma and mental illness.  The letter was posted on Thursday, November 25, 2008 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and can be found at the following address …. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08325/929206-109.stm 

Unfounded fears
The mentally ill need understanding not stigmatization
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tragic incidents involving people identified as having mental-health problems recently have been reported in Allegheny County. While rare, such events are unsettling to those of us within the behavioral-health community as well as to the general public.

Not surprisingly, many people believe that all individuals with mental illness pose a potential threat. This common misperception is fueled by high-profile and sensational news reports linking violence and mental illness, as well as by television and film portrayals of people with mental illness as violent criminals.

When, in the aftermath of a horrific shooting spree on a college campus, we learn that the perpetrator had a history of mental instability, it’s easy to assume the worst about people with mental illness. This perceived risk exacerbates fear and mistrust. As a result, people are reluctant to interact with those who have mental illness. They may label them, shun them and discriminate against them. Stigmatization, in turn, can cause people not to seek treatment they need or from which they would benefit.

As my colleagues and I travel throughout Allegheny County, we regularly hear these fears verbalized. Far too often, people with mental illness are unfairly painted with a broad brush.

Research shows that there is very little risk of violence or harm to a stranger from casual contact with an individual who has a mental disorder. The vast majority of individuals with mental illness are not dangerous. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence and are more likely to harm themselves than hurt others.

A study by North Carolina State University and Duke University found that people with severe mental illness — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis — are two and a half times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.

As a psychiatrist trained to help people who struggle with mental illness, I have witnessed tremendous strides in our depth of understanding of mental health and mental illness. As our understanding has grown over the past few decades, so has our ability to treat people. People can, and do, recover. They live independently, hold jobs and raise families. I see these successes every day.

Treatment for mental illness, not unlike treatment for physical health conditions, requires a comprehensive, consistent and holistic approach. People who are fully engaged in their care — those with the support not only of professionals but also of their families, friends and communities — are most likely to succeed.

Failures happen when psychiatric disorders remain undiagnosed or untreated. They may also be the result of people giving up on treatment or failing to take prescribed medications.

It is estimated that up to one in four adults have some form of diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, millions of Americans affected by mental illness remain untreated or under-treated.

It’s critical that we remove obstacles to care. Obstacles include, but are not limited to, a reluctance to seek help due to fear, the social stigma attached to mental illness, a lack of knowledge about where to find care and a lack of insurance coverage.

With last month’s passage of the mental-health parity bill — which requires insurers to provide coverage for mental-health care that is comparable to what they provide for physical ailments — we have an opportunity to close one large gap in our health-care system that has historically presented a barrier to treatment. That is a welcome and overdue step in the right direction.

We also must ensure that programs are accessible to all those who need them, especially the most vulnerable among us. Community-based behavioral services provide vital care and support for people with mild, severe and chronic mental illness. Insufficient funding of public mental-health programs poses an ongoing challenge to meeting the needs of those at risk.

Mental illnesses are real, diagnosable and treatable. With appropriate treatment and support, the vast majority of people will succeed. Despite our best efforts, a few will not.

As we work to support people on their recovery journey, let’s not place an additional burden on them because of the actions of a small minority. Instead, let’s continue to provide help and hope to people with mental illness so that they have the opportunity to live as productive members of our community.

Dr. James N. Jacobson is the director of community psychiatry for Mercy Behavioral Health (www.mercybehavioral.org).
First published on November 20, 2008 at 12:00 am
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