Do you have the virus?

Published 10:55 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

One in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental health condition.

During the month of May, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) will observed Mental Health Month to raise awareness of mental illness.

This year, NAMI is launching “CureStigma” a new campaign that builds on the successful #StigmaFree initiative and positions stigma as a “social virus” that is spreading across America.

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Stigma is a sign or sense of disgrace that sets someone apart from others.

Navigating life with a mental health condition can be tough, and the isolation and blame that is often encouraged by stigma can create huge challenges to moving forward in one’s recovery journey.

“Stigma is dangerous for the millions of Americans affected by mental health conditions,” said Mary Giliberti, CEO of NAMI. “It causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control, prevents them from seeking help, and even takes lives.

“Although stigma is a virus that anyone can be exposed to, we do have a cure, and that is compassion and understanding. We need to talk openly and raise our voices, so we can put an end to the fear and shame, and cure stigma once and for all.”

The campaign incorporates a new series of nationwide public service announcements featuring NAMI celebrity ambassadors from film, TV, music and sports including Utkarsh Ambudkar, Andrea Barber, Maurice Bernard, Corinne Foxx, Clark Gregg, Jamie Gray Hyder, AJ Mendez, Sonya Nichols, Mauro Ranallo and Stolar.

The PSA encourages viewers to visit, where visitors can take a brief quiz to see if they “are infected” by stigmatizing beliefs.

Visitors will also receive information about how to “spread the cure” and will gain free access to a special emoji/sticker pack for their mobile phones.

Key mental health statistics include:

  One in 25 (10 million) adults in the U.S. lives with a serious mental illness.

— 60 million people in the United States face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness.

  Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24, but early intervention programs can help.

—  20 to 25 percent of the homeless population in the U.S. suffers from some form of severe mental illness.

Additional facts and citations are available at Mental Health by the Numbers.

In Winchester, NAMI Winchester-Clark County and Clark County Mental Health Court hosted a homelessness awareness lunch on the Judicial Center lawn last week. Agencies provided information about services offered and opportunities in Clark County for homeless to access help. Backpacks with food and essentials were provided for homeless attending.

“The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it. So during Mental Health Month, we are asking everyone to join with NAMI to #CureStigma,” Giliberti said.

For additional information about Mental Health Month, to take the CureStigma quiz and to access CureStigma resources, visit

Brenda Harrington is a mental health awareness advocate and a member of Winchester-Clark County NAMI. The group meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Monday of the month at McCready Hall at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Lexington Road. Meeting are open to anyone (including friends and family) affected by mental illness.