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Mental Health Experts Say, Stop Stigma by Speaking to the Sick

Posted Jun 06 2006 12:00am
The June 1 "Ask the Experts" telecast, hosted by KaiserNetwork.Org focused on Mental Health.
The expert panel consisted of the following individuals: Kathryn Power, director of the Center for Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of NAMI, and Richard Frank, Ph.D Department of Health Care Policy Harvard.

Much of the discussion focused on the transformation that has been called to take place in the United States mental health care system. This transformation was largely triggered by the report card that NAMI, National Alliance for Mental Illness, gave the United States earlier this year.

Michael Fitzpatrick stated, eight states received an "F" and eighteen received "D"'s.

Despite the State's poor report card, all the panel members had encouraging remarks about the economic status and infrastructure of transformations that will be taking place at a federal, state, and community level.

All the experts also seemed to be in agreement that no matter how each individual state improve and implements new and better mental health care plans, the only way the programs are really effective is when the community recognizes the need. This is when Michael Fitzpatrick saw the best programs in states that received high grades, when the community was working with the state to make programs that work.

Fitzpatrick said commented on the "bright lights" in communities like Wisconsin and Ohio. "Community groups and family law makers have come together as coalitions.....
a "consumer face" on mental illness"

These are the communities that are also the leaders in stamping out stigma about mental illness and promoting recovery and wellness.

Kaiser's Jill Braden Balederas asked, "How much of a role does stigma play in people not embracing that?"

Kathryn Powell of SAMHSA responded, "I think stigma plays a tremendously large role. The majority of the people who have mental illnesses do not get care." (Surgeon Generals report)

In a recent survey by SAMHSA they asked why people did not get care. The first reason was cost. The second was they were not sure that they need services. The third was stigma. Both the fear about how they would be treated or how they would be perceived, or the anticipated embarrassment or shame if someone found out that they were going to seek mental health care.

"We have a long way to go about overcoming stigma. We found in all of these reports and in all of our work that the one most effective way to overcome stigma is to be engaged in a conversation and relationship with someone with a mental illness."
Kathryn Powell.

"Exactly." Richard Frank, Ph.D.

"Treating mental illness the way you would a heart condition or broken arm."
Michael Fitzpatrick

So what are your thoughts?
Do you disclose your illness to enough people to be considered a stigma buster?
Is this our responsibility to aid in mental health care reform?
How does the broken arm comment strike you...a)Great! Now that is Stamping Stigma!
b)A little over-simplified to compare a bone repair to a chronic illness? Or is that the point?
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