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Mental Illness: No Shame

Community Contributed

By Stephanie Napoli, Psy.D. Behavioral Health Director, MCHC

One in four adults have mental illnesses, yet fewer than one third get help. Why? The answer is summarized in one word: stigma. Stigma is defined as a sign of social unacceptability; the shame or disgrace attached to something regarded as socially unacceptable. How, though, can we label disorders that one quarter of us have as unacceptable?

Mental illnesses are conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas that can be treated through lifestyle changes, medication, and skill building, mental illnesses can be effectively treated in much the same way. The severity of mental illness can range from temporary distress and slight problems in day-to-day functioning to severe and persistent problems with functioning for a lifetime. However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness on NAMI.org, “between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological [medication] and psychosocial [therapy] treatments and supports.”

As noted, stigma keeps people from seeking treatment for their mental health issues. Here is the problem: “Without treatment, the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives,” states NAMI.org. “The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.” Let’s end the stigma and promote mental health as much as we promote physical health. It is just as important. There is no shame, just acceptance, advocacy, and recovery.

On Oct. 6, the Molokai Community Health Center is organizing the second annual National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Walk for the Minds of Hawaii, as one of hundreds of NAMI walks around the country. NAMI advocates for those with mental health issues to get the treatment they need to live successful lives. Our Molokai-based team is named, “Molokai Mo Bettah” because “mo bettah minds means mo bettah health.” Please join us as we walk from the Coconut Grove to MCHC’s Oceanside campus Saturday October 6 beginning at 8 a.m. And wear Molokai green!

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