Compeer asks you to become a 'stigma ender' for mental health

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and has been since 1949. In my last Westlake | Bay Village Observer article I gave six good reasons to gain awareness regarding your own personal mental health. I hope readers found that advice to be beneficial. In this second May article I am asking you to lend a hand to others that are working on gaining their own mental health awareness.

People that receive a diagnosis of mental illness do not cause it to occur. We continue to see a lot of public stigma surrounding mental health issues and mental illness even though it is well documented that mental illness, in its many forms, is most often related to an imbalance of brain chemistry. 

The word “stigmatize” is defined as “to characterize or mark as disgraceful.” Stigmatizing someone that is managing mental illness is incredibly unjust to the individual and his or her family. In addition, it is unfortunate that public stigma too often stands in the way of individuals seeking the very treatment services that could reduce or end their symptoms.  In a brain illness, such as major depression, not seeking treatment can result in a suicide. Therefore, stigmatizing persons that are managing mental illness is not only cruel but also dangerous.

There is so much incorrect information and so very many incorrect depictions of mental health issues in television programs, movies, and even in everyday speech. Recently I heard a radio host even refer to a mental health counselor by saying on his show “I’m not going to talk to one of those psycho witches.” We would expect people to be better informed about brain health given several decades of correct information about brain health research and treatment. 

I will spare you the long list of terrible names that are given to consumers of mental health services. It is too easy to use a common, yet very incorrect, term and takes a little energy to look for scientifically correct resources. If we all do our part to gain knowledge about mental health then together we can bring an end to stigma. 

We are asking you to join us and become a “Stigma Ender.” This is a fairly simple thing to do. It only takes two types of action on your part: 1. Gain knowledge about what mental illness is, how it is treated, and how many people recover, and 2. When you hear others using stigmatizing terms to refer to mental illness please say something like “you are talking about a person that did not chose to have an illness. Mental illness is a physical imbalance of brain chemicals. People recover from mental illnesses.” 

Please become a Stigma Ender for the sake of someone’s daughter that had been diagnosed with schizophrenia after she graduated from college with honors. Become a Stigma Ender for a father or mother that has depression so they can feel comfortable about seeking the treatment that will help. If we do this all together we will end the stigma regarding mental health and we will decrease the suicide rate.

Denise Ayres

The Compeer Program has been serving adults that are managing mental illness from our Far West Center office fo almost 21 years! The number for Compeer is 440-835-6212 Ext. 242 and email is : compeer@farwestcenter.com.

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Volume 4, Issue 10, Posted 11:44 AM, 05.15.2012