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What is Stigma?

If a friend or colleague announces at work they need time off for cancer treatment or because of a broken leg, they are shown sympathy and support. If this same person asks for time off to deal with a mental illness, they risk rejection, humiliation, and possibly even the loss of their job.

Mental illness can be devastating not only to the lives of the men, women and children it affects directly, but also those of their families, friends, and colleagues.

Treatments are available to help control or even diminish the symptoms of mental illness, but the fear of social stigma can make it extremely difficult for those suffering to seek out the help they need.

Victims of mental illness are faced with the risk of losing their employment and friends, of being ridiculed and misunderstood, and of being discriminated against legally, medically, and socially.

Stigma is everywhere - at school and work, on the playground and at the gym, in hospitals and hotels, and on the television.

Ways to Help End Stigma:

1. Share your experience with mental illness: Speak out! Sharing your personal story with others can help end the ignorance about mental illness. Show others that being mentally ill is not anything to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Be proud of your accomplishments.

2. Support others with mental illness: Show the mentally ill your support. Encourage them to obtain help and to become active members of society. Let them know you understand their illness and still accept them.

3. Respond to false statements about mental illness and the mentally ill: Ignorance encourages stigma - provide accurate facts about mental illness and combat the damaging myths. Encourage others to learn about mental illness and to share that knowledge with others.

4. Take action against stigma: Become an advocate for the mentally ill. Donate literature to your child's school or to your church. Join an organization aimed at ending stigma against mental illness.

Facts About Mental Illness:

- As many as 80 percent of people suffering from mental illnesses can effectively return to normal, productive lives if they receive appropriate treatment.

- During any one-year period, up to 50 million Americans, more than 22 percent, suffer from a clearly diagnosable mental disorder involving a degree of incapacity that interferes with employment, attendance at school or daily life.

- The direct costs of support and medical treatment of mental illnesses total $55.4 billion a year.

- The indirect costs, such as lost employment, reduced productivity, criminal activity, vehicular accidents and social welfare programs increase the total cost of mental and substance abuse disorders to more than $273 billion a year.

- Medications relieve acute symptoms of schizophrenia in 80 percent of cases, but only about half of all people with schizophrenia seek treatment.

- With therapy, 80 to 90 percent of the people suffering from depressive disorders can get better, but fewer than one-third of those suffering seek treatment.

- Refinements of lithium carbonate, used in treating manic-depressive (bipolar) disorder, have led to an estimated annual savings of $8 billion in treatment costs and lost productivity associated with bipolar disorder.

- Studies of psychotherapy by the National Institute of Mental Health have shown it to be very effective in treating mild to moderate depression.

Statistics gathered from the American Psychiatric Associationís web site.

For more information on stigma please visit NAMI StigmaBusters.


All information contained in this web site is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with your medical doctor or psychiatrist.
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This Site Updated 04/09/11