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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Inspirational Documentary Fights the Stigma of Mental Illness

By Sara Battista, NAMI Communications Intern

Funded by California’s voter-approved Mental Services Act (Prop. 63), the documentary A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness was created in the hopes of raising awareness and understanding to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. This inspiring piece from KVIE-TV shares stories of perseverance from indivduals living with a range of mental illnesses, who offer their advice on how to best overcome stigma in order achieve success and happiness.

California is currently undertaking the steep challenge of decreasing the amount of discrimination against individuals living with mental illness and increasing the number of people who seek support for mental challenges. Retired Congressman and mental health advocate Patrick Kennedy speaks about the importance of this initiative saying, “When two-thirds of the people who do have access to mental health never take advantage of it because of the stigma associated with it… that’s a real problem,” later adding that “everyone needs a checkup from the neck up.”

Advocates of the Mental Services Act contend that early intervention and culturally relevant mental health care programs are critical to the initiative’s success, and aim to address at-risk groups such as ethnic minorities and bullied youth. Through the use of early intervention tools like this informative documentary, California’s Mental Health Movement aims to reach out to those affected by mental illness by offering hope for a better future.

Narrated by award-winning actress and mental health advocate Glenn Close, A New State of Mind, which is now available to watch online for free, features numerous celebrity activists as well as community heroes who hope that sharing their story will inspire others to find the help they need to overcome the challenge of facing the stigma associated with mental illness. NAMI President Keris Myrick shared her story of triumph in the face of stigma, attributing her success largely to her “wellness toolbox” consisting of her friends, psychiatrist, dog and even musical outlets. Myrick’s support system helped her to not only overcome struggles with depression and schizophrenia, but also accomplish many academic and professional successes that ultimately allow her to empower others.  “I think… having positive interactions with people who have a mental illness can help reduce stigma, but the reality of it is that I think when we share our personal stories we give hope,” Myrick says.

Aside from sharing powerful personal stories, this documentary also identifies specific organizations throughout California that provide solutions to some of the major challenges people affected by mental illness regularly struggle with, such as finding employment, housing and support.  Featured program Crossroads Diversified Services is just one example of how organizations can make a difference in any community by providing resources for self-sufficiency through offering equal employment to those living with mental illness. As noted in the documentary, NAMI reports that “unemployment rates among people with severe mental health challenges can run as high as 90 percent, but given the opportunity and support, they strive for and succeed in careers just like anyone else.” Crossroads Diversified Services prides itself on employing people based on skill regardless of diagnoses, helping those living with mental illness find stability and productivity through work. 

With one in four American adults living with mental illness every year, California’s Mental Health Movement makes a strong case for the benefits and necessity of proactive intervention. A New State of Mind is just one example of how California is executing the initiative to raise awareness and aid those living with mental illness before a crisis emerges. Hopefully, this documentary will be successful in opening dialogue about mental health, and encouraging people to support their loved ones living with mental illness.

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