The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation is working to reduce the stigmas around mental disorders especially in the workplace.

Stigmas, silence hinder healing

No more silence, no more stigmas: it’s time to talk about mental illness

A man with cancer, bald and pale from exhaustive chemotherapy treatments, walks down the street, shivering in the brisk wind. As he does so, a passerby comments that he should stop feeling sorry for himselfand get it together. Had this situation actually occurred, people would be outraged, but this happens on the daily to those who suffer from mental illness. Why is the disease of the mind treated differently than a sickness of the body?

MakeItOk.org is a local campaign that seeks to reduce the stigma of mental illness.
MakeItOk.org is a local campaign that seeks to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

Mental illness carries a stigma, and has always been a taboo topic. Those who suffer from it often feel an enormous amount of shame on top oftheir already difficult symptoms. They are often viewed as being lazy, dangerous, incompetent, insane, or even accused of fabricating their illness. These thoughts cause further setbacks in overcoming the previous, incorrect views of the mentally ill.

In the United States alone, approximately 61.5 million adults suffer from a mood disorder. This outnumbers cancer, HIV and heart attacks. It seems strange that something so common could be so controversial. But of these Americans, nearly half of them do not seek treatment for their mental illness.

This can be traced back to the shame that they feel for having a disorder, coupled with the extreme cost ofbeing treated. In 2005 alone, $113 billion was spent on mental health, not including the $22 billion spent on treatment for substance

abuse. While this seems like an exorbitant number, this is less than The Marshall Plan proposed to spend on rebuilding Europe after WWII in today’s dollars.

In order to put into perspective how much is spent on mental health a year, it helps to break it down individually. In 2006, the average cost for the treatment of the mentally ill was $1,591 per

person. Comparatively, mental illness accounts for $193.2 billion in lost wages per year.

A study conducted by the U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services found that 1/4th of those interviewed believed that someone suffering from mental illness was capable ofrecovery. Along side that, 54% of those who knew someone with a mental illness believed that treatment can help people with mental illness lead normal lives.

The Ad Counsel’s solution to this predicament was to implement a series of ads, commercials and public service announcement in order to help normalize mental illness. Some ofthese included radio commercials comparing the way people react to mental illness with other sicknesses, such as cancer.

The most important part of the entireadcampaignwastoencourage the discussion ofmental illness. Just talk. The more conversation that is spurred, the more the stigma is reduced. Misinformation simply feeds the shame. The exchange of correct information allows people to become more comfortable with mental illness.

One in four adults in the United States suffer from some sort of mental illness. This means that statistically, every American knows someone with a mental illness. The question is, do you know them for who they are? Or do you know them from what they have been diagnosed with?

Someofthemostinspiringpeople throughout history were afflicted with mental health problems. Abraham Lincoln suffered from crippling depression and suicidal thoughts. Winston Churchill rode out tumultuous mood swings. At a young age, Mahatma Gandhi attempted suicide, overcome with depression over the current state of India. Ludwig van Beethoven experienced exhausting mood changes, due to bipolar disorder. Hadthesemenbeendisregardedfor their conditions, the world would be a drastically different place.

Instead of succumbing to their illnesses, they persevered. In fact, some experts argue that their conditions aided them in their pursuits. Without the adversity they had to overcome, they wouldn’t have had the drive to accomplish what they did.

 

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About Rachel Bartz

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