Erase the stigma of mental illness

May 22, 2017 | by Mary Lou Mastro

After you have a heart attack, people will often visit you in the hospital, send get-well cards and ask how you’re doing.

When you get home from the hospital, people want to help you. They’ll stop by your house to check on you. They bring gifts to cheer you up.

It’s often a different story when it comes to mental illness. People don’t know how to help, they don’t know what to say. They don’t visit you in the hospital. When you get home from the hospital, people may distance themselves because they’re uncomfortable or unsure of how to approach you.

For whatever reason, there’s a stigma associated with mental illness.  But there shouldn’t be.

People with mental illness aren’t weak or irresponsible. The idea that people should be able to control mental illness is silly. You don’t control it, just like you don’t control cancer.  Stigma can cause an individual to delay or forego medical care.  And this is so unfortunate because we know that medications and/or therapy successfully treat mental illness.

The key to erasing the stigma is conversation. The more often we talk about mental health, the easier it is to talk about it. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to start talking.

Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Mental Health First Aid program is a huge investment in our community. It trains people (anyone from behavioral health workers to school staffers to interested community members) to identify the signs of mental illness and how to help someone who’s struggling.

I am incredibly proud of Edward-Elmhurst Health for being so committed to mental health – we have been for 25 years with Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

We’ve also worked hard to integrate behavioral health with our physical health services. There are behavioral health specialists set up in our physician offices so they’re easily accessible.

Mental health is something everyone needs to keep tabs on. Even people who aren’t dealing with a mental illness must make choices that keep their psyches healthy.

You can’t truly be healthy unless you have good physical health and good mental health. Your mental health is fundamentally important.

Mental Health First Aid training equips the public to identify and help someone who is facing a mental health crisis. Learn more.

Just as with any other illness, the first step to feeling better is identifying the problem. Get a free, confidential behavioral health assessment at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

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