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Destigmatizing Mental Illness

In any given year, fully one in five Americans, that is, more than 60 million people, will meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis.  Yet nearly two-thirds of these people will not take advantage of the lifesaving and burden-easing help they need.  A primary reason for this is the stigma society attaches to mental health conditions, which are all too often seen as shameful, as something best hidden and denied or ignored. 

We attach no similar stigma to physical ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.  But science has shown that the body and the mind are closely linked, each affecting the other in profound ways.  That stigma is so powerful is not only unfortunate but also seriously detrimental. Misunderstanding about mental health conditions puts an unwarranted burden on the affected individuals and, indeed, all of society, which would be healthier if only the public took a more balanced viewpoint.  Some of us face more serious problems than others, of course, but none of us is ever truly “normal”; most of us will experience a significant mental health challenge at some point during our lives.  Accepting illnesses of the mind as equivalent to other ailments will go a long way to enabling those facing mental challenges to obtain needed relief.

Medication and therapy in combination have the potential to do wonders for many types of emotional conditions.  To reach all in our community who could benefit from professional help, it’s important that public perceptions of mental health catch up with modern and sympathetic understanding of the issues.

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