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STOP STIGMA AND HELP PEOPLE LIVE MORE JOYFUL LIVES

May Marked Mental Health Awareness Month ? It?s Still Time to Make a Difference
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(www.campaignforcommunitywellness.org) This information is from Placer County System of Care (Placer County, Calif.) ? May 30, 2012 ? As readers have learned from the May?s mental health awareness month-long series, mental illness impacts nearly one in four Americans. Yet despite this prevalence, there is little awareness of the impacts and conditions of mental illness on an individual. Stigma continues to play a big role in how those facing mental health issues feel about themselves and their recovery. Stigma presents itself in many ways. Those with mental illness find it more difficult to find adequate housing and employment opportunities, and they often experience social isolation and avoidance from others. The results of stigma are severe, leading to low self-esteem, isolation, hopelessness and potentially suicide. People with mental illness internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment. When embarrassment and shame are eliminated, treatment is more readily sought and recovery may be achieved. To support people in recovery, some assistance may be needed in gaining employment, finding safe housing and having the appropriate diet and health treatments. Much like those with diabetes, with the proper support or medication, people in recovery can lead very normal lives Whether receiving public or private treatment, virtually everyone who has ever received a mental illness diagnosis has experienced stigma. Sometimes that stigma comes from the individual?s own perceptions, sometimes from their peers and sometimes even from people whose job it is to support them through their recovery. ?Often times those with mental illness are targets of violence. The illness makes us more vulnerable. Someone who is not doing well may not be aware of their surroundings and can be easily taken advantage of or hurt. Like anyone else with an illness, we just want to recover and have the path to recovery be a good one,? says Will Taylor, consumer affairs coordinator, Mental Health America, an advocacy and support organization partnering with counties to better serve persons in treatment. It is important to note that nearly two-thirds of people with serious mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar, recover. Many have jobs, homes and family; others are living independent lives. Much like anyone else, people with mental illness need to feel like they have a place in and are contributing to society. Employment is one of the biggest contributors to recovery. ?Having access to social outlets, employment, medication, community groups and faith-based communities helps people with mental illness have rich and satisfying lives,? added Taylor. Placer County?s Campaign for Community Wellness seeks to break down barriers to achieve full inclusion for people with mental illness into society; to support families and individuals; to increase resources and to ask communities to do the following: ? Educate yourselves about the devastating effects of stigma and mental health illnesses. ? Be a good friend and ally to someone you know who is struggling with a mental health issue ? listen, call, help that person seek help. ? Decide now to refuse to tolerate stigma; change your language when talking about people with mental illnesses; embrace the person as he/she truly is. ? Educate others about stigma and ?walk the talk?, and even ask others to stop promoting stigma. ? Know your rights. Visit the American with Disabilities act at www.ada.gov and Fair Housing Act at www.hud.gov (search under Fair Housing Act). ? Stop being silent and talk to someone if you?ve been feeling down; remember to begin a discussion, too, with someone whom you might feel is struggling, feeling suicidal, down in the dumps. Then, ? Get treatment and join a support group for yourself or assist someone else. ? Don't let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn't just come from others; it can come from you. Seeking psychological counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others with mental illness can aid in overcoming self-destructive thoughts. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against people with physical or psychiatric disabilities in employment, transportation, communication or recreation. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or disability. Resources such as National Advocates for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), www.placernami.org, and Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), www.samhsa.org, provide an abundance of information on stigma and recovery. For a complete list of resources for mental and behavioral services in Placer County, visit the Placer County Network of Care website at www.placer.networkofcare.org. ### About the Campaign for Community Wellness Founded in 2005, the Campaign for Community Wellness (CCW) is a group of citizens who are concerned about and desire to improve the services for people affected by mental illness throughout Placer County. For more information, please visit www.campaignforcommunitywellness.org.