Stigma of mental illness paints inaccurate portrait
There is a form of discrimination that is rarely talked about in a helpful way. It is about people who have mental illness. When there is a violent attack, such as the recent one in Parkland, Fla., it does get attention.
Unfortunately, a stigma gets created that people with mental illness are a ticking time-bomb – dangerous and to be avoided. The truth is, people with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of crime or bullying than perpetrators of it. In fact, many people living with mental illness are successful and productive members of society.
Unfortunately, too often in schools and neighborhoods, individuals who are different or eccentric are isolated or even shunned. Too many times, warning signs are ignored and serious consequences such as homelessness, addictions or even suicide can result. Even if major problems don’t occur, quality of life suffers.
A campaign has started in our community to encourage conversations about this discrimination. Only when myths are dispelled, facts showcased, stories told and prejudices reduced can these individuals become ready to disclose their illness to others.
Having a mental illness is like having a physical illness and can be treated. The pathway to getting help for a mental illness needs to be the same as getting help for a physical illness. It is a brain disease and with help, recovery is possible.
Please take the pledge on letstalkstigma.org and learn more about mental illness. When a community becomes more enlightened, people see there is hope and help available, and recovery is possible. When we talk about mental illness, we help people find their voice.
Chairman, Erie County