stop stigmatizing mental illness

By DIANA RUSSEL

Staff Writer

The week of October 4-10 is National Mental Health Awareness Week.  The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 50 million adults in the United States live with a mental disorder.    It is important to understand that a mental disorder is a disease of the brain. It can be biological like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, or it can occur as a result of an experience like fighting in a war, having a baby, or being the victim of a crime.  No one is immune to mental disorders – they strike children and adults of every race, creed, color and economic status.Most people with a mental disorder can lead normal active lives, but because of the stigmas surrounding mental illness, nearly two-thirds of the people who are suffering neglect to seek treatment.  Without treatment, the cost in the United States for unemployment, disability, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, and suicide can be more than 100 billion dollars a year.  With proper medical care, 70-90% of the people suffering with a mental disorder experience a reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life.  This surpasses the success rate of other medical conditions like heart disease.  The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office and the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Mental Health encourage everyone to help reduce the burden of mental illness and improve access to care by helping to remove stigmas around mental disorders.  If you or a family member has a mental disorder, become a spokesperson and help educate others by sharing your story.  Employers and schools can distribute literature and conduct programs to explain the truth about mental illness. Refuse to use offensive language like “nuts” or “crazy” or “schizo.”  Don’t be afraid to hire or rent to a person who has a mental disorder.  If we all work together we can break down the stigma barriers around mental illness in our schools, homes, communities, and places of employment


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