Take the Pledge: Help Make America Become stigmafree

By Mary Giliberti, J.D. | May. 01, 2015

May is Mental Health Month. It’s a time when people should learn the symptoms of mental health conditions and to know when and how to get help if they need it. One of the greatest obstacles to people seeking help, however, is the stigma and discrimination that too often surround mental illness.

The need to eliminate stigma is nothing new. Fifteen years ago, a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health—the first and only one to date—identified stigma as a public health concern that leads peoples to “avoid living, socializing or working with, renting to, or employing" individuals with mental illness, particularly schizophrenia.

Even worse, individuals living with mental illness often internalize the stigma that exists in our culture, damaging hopes for recovery.

This month brings new signs of change. We have opportunities to seize that can help create broader understanding of mental health, overcome stereotypes and break down barriers. It is a moment when we can all reach out to build a movement that will eliminate stigma and replace it with help and hope.

One sign is the recent statement of our new Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, M.D., that fewer than half of people with mental illness get care. “That's not good for us and it's not good for us as a country. Until we get rid of the unacceptable stigma of mental illness, it's going to be very hard for people to come forward for care."

Murthy also called on religious leaders to "use the power of their pulpits to bring mental illness out of the shadows." Like many family survivors, he knows about tragedy first-hand. He had an uncle who died from suicide because of untreated mental illness.

The other sign is the launch of NAMI’s stigmafree in partnership with philosophy, a brand of worldwide Coty, Inc. skincare. The launch of the campaign included the lighting of New York City’s Empire State Building green—the color of mental health awareness—as a symbol of hope for the nation and the world.

NAMI is excited about the philosophy partnership.

The stigmafree campaign is the first time that a major corporation outside the health care community has stepped forward to make a commitment to fighting stigma. Through its Hope & Grace initiative, philosophy will donate 1 percent of product sales to community-based mental health efforts.

Building a movement for change will require even broader commitments from individuals, businesses, organizations, campuses and churches, as well as others. As a first step we’re asking everyone to take the stigmafree pledge.

  • Learn about mental health—educate myself and others
  • See the person, not the illness—strive to listen, understand and tell my own story
  • Take action—spread the word, raise awareness and make a difference

We’re also asking everyone to use Twitter and other social media to encourage others to take the pledge and help raise awareness:  e.g. #iamstigmafree.  As a movement, we need to keep pushing forward. Mental Health Month and the stigmafree campaign are important parts of that effort.  Take the pledge and invite others to join you!

As always, please also feel free to share your thoughts with me at executivedirector@nami.org. I am not able to answer every email, but I do read them all.

Comments
Tracy Wilson
Living with the stigma of mental illness. A person I love beyond words is currently experiencing the hardships and injustice one faces when living with A mental health disease. She's lived with this for many years before I met her and due to the stigma attached she has felt shame and never addressed her mental health as the cause to her current troubles she is facing with our judicial system. The victims here are the ones being punished for crimes they did not commit. It is not a crime to have a mental illness. The crime here is how this country has allowed the mental healthcare system to be swept under the rug. #iamstigmafree
4/21/2016 11:04:18 AM

michele zousmer
I am reaching out to you for all the incarcerated women in reentry programs that are deserving of a second chance. I have been photographing and facilitating empowerment groups with these ladies for the last 3 years and I have witnessed transformation of heart and soul and want to bring this awareness to the world. These women are not very different then us and the media has portrayed them as mentally ill, socially unacceptable women. I am showing others that they are women who suffered some form of trauma tremendous but with some compassion their beauty and humanity shows through. michele zousmer www.michelezousmer.com
4/16/2016 10:52:58 AM

Jennifer
I believe that individuals afflicted with mental illness could have the greatest potential impact on confronting mental health stigmas. In order to challenge societal notions it is necessary to diminish our own fears and shames that we may carry with us. I developed an acronym I refer to as the Lunar principle. I believe satisfaction of the following guidelines allows us to more effectively share our stories.
Learn: underlying causes, symptoms, and treatments of mental illness.
Understand: the need for professional and personal support
Negate: the fears and shame associated with mental illness
Accept: the condition and embrace its effects on one’s life
Respond: to any changes in symptoms and seek help accordingly
6/6/2015 9:17:57 PM

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