Next month is Mental Health Awareness month. Please don’t focus it on teaching the public there is stigma and you’re against it. It’s stupid to teach that there is stigma and it diverts us from fighting the real battles.
Instead of using Mental Health Awareness Month to teach the public there is stigma to mental illness, let’s focus on demanding politicians create more housing, more clubhouses, more rehab programs, hire more doctors, build more facilities, and make transportation options available to those who need them. Let’s fight for more research, more hospitals, easier access to Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), and laws that prevent someone from becoming danger to self or others rather than requiring it.
Let’s focus Mental Health Awareness Month activities on expanding ACT and ICM case management programs. Let’s support the changes Dr. McCance-Katz is making at SAMHSA to focus it on science, the seriously ill, and lowering rates of homelessness and incarceration.
Let’s fight to get persons with serious mental illness real treatment. Let’s use Mental Health Awareness Week to tell Congress to end the IMD exclusion and hospital administrators to end discriminatory practices like ER boarding and streeting. Research shows those are the real barriers to care, not stigma. Lets focus on the REAL issues, and not divert advocates and attention to the useless black hole of ‘stigma’.
Look at reality: Mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar are no-fault physical illnesses. Yes, some people are prejudiced against the seriously mentally ill, but that is stupidity on their part, not proof that there is stigma (“a mark of shame”). Every other group that was marginalized and used to waste time teaching there is stigma has stopped doing that and made progress as a result. Advocates used to teach that there is stigma to having cancer, being gay, being leftie, being a rape victim. But those advocates stopped teaching there is stigma and started demanding services. It’s time for mental health advocates to do the same.
Please don’t use Mental Health Awareness Week to teach the public there is stigma. Teach there is not. Use the week to demand more services. That’s what will stop the mental illness to jail pipeline. Thank you for all you do.
Executive Director, Mental Illness Policy Org.
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