Our View: Fight the stigma

Millions of Americans live with a mental illness.

Despite how widespread mental illness is, there is still much stigma and misunderstanding.

Each year, during the first week of October, Americans recognize National Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year, the week of Oct. 2-8 is dedicated to raising awareness, providing support, educating the public and fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness.

According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), “mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, but highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice.”

Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as (MIAW), advocates have worked together to sponsor activities, large or small, to educate the public about mental illness.

This year’s theme is CureStigma. While one in five Americans are affected by mental health conditions, a toxic stigma remains.

“Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment.,” according to NAMI. “The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.”

Often people are made to feel ashamed of their mental health conditions. When people feel embarrassed about mental health, they may decide not to seek treatment or support from others in their lives.

When individuals do not seek help, their mental illness can manifest in life-altering and life-threatening ways.

Mental illnesses don’t only affect those diagnosed. It can have significant effects on family, friends and co-workers.

It is far past time for people to begin looking at mental illness with the same compassion and understanding they do other health issues.

This week, take time to become more educated about mental health, signs, symptoms and how to help. Encourage others to do the same and ask those who are suffering to seek help.

Stigma is curable if we only continue to fight against it.