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Mental Health and Recovery Board

During the first week of October each year, mental health advocates and organizations around the nation raise awareness of mental illness through Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 6-12, 2019). Mental Illness Awareness Week was established in 1990 by the U.S. Congress in recognition of efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to educate and promote community outreach around mental illness.

One in five American adults live with a mental illness which is 46.6 million Americans (NIMH 2017). Among those 46.6 million adults with any mental illness, 19.8 million received mental health services.  Slightly less than half receive treatment, and one of the main barriers to treatment is stigma. Stigma creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. Stigma is portrayed in the news media, on social media, on the playgrounds, in the workforce.

Breaking the Stigma

There are many ways to raise awareness about mental illness and break the negative stigma that surrounds it.

  • Educate yourself and others, using credible sources, about mental illness
  • Talk openly about mental health
  • Unfollow any social media accounts that do not support mental illness in a positive light
  • Participate in a mental health campaign, fundraiser or community event
  • Engage in positive conversations about mental illness
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness
  • Encourage equality between physical illness and mental illness
  • Don’t harbor self-stigma
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness
  • Be careful with your language and verbiage. Avoid terms such as “crazy”, “psychotic” or any other words that give off a negative connotation

We must work together to eliminate the stigma too often associated with having a mental illness or seeking help for a mental health issue. Here are a few ways to help raise awareness in your community:

  • October 5th: Out of the Darkness Northern Panhandle Community Walk  @ Wheeling Park 

(Walk of Awareness, Remembrance & Celebration) Register at afsp.org/WestVirginia

  • October 8th: Annual Candlelight Vigil with guest speaker Sandy Williams, Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Chair and President of Jerry’s Walk. www.namiwheeling.org
  • October 19th: NAMI Greater Wheeling’s 4th Annual Walk for Awareness. Register at www.namiwheeling.org

MHR Board Position Statement on Mental Health and Violence
The Mental Health and Recovery Board is appalled over recent mass killings and shares the grief felt around the nation for suffering of the families, friends, and communities. 

We believe that it is important to not let the conversation continue to be driven by misinformation.  Many are quick to attribute these acts of mass violence under the label of mental illness.   Pairing mental illness with mass shootings creates bias and marginalizes a vast and diverse population of persons diagnosed with mental illness.  This public health issue is much more complex. 

Quoting Arthur C. Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association, “Blaming mental illness for the gun violence in our country is simplistic and inaccurate and goes against the scientific evidence currently available.  The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent.  And there is no single personality profile that can reliably predict who will resort to gun violence.  Based on the research, we know that only a history of violence is the single best predictor of who will commit future violence.  And access to more guns, and deadlier guns, means more lives lost.” 

We call upon ourselves, our community, and our leaders to not further stigmatize individuals with mental illness by blaming occurrences of mass violence on them.  We support the conclusions drawn from a recent report by the National Council for Behavioral Health that states, “Mass violence is caused by several different social and psychological factors that interact with each other in complex ways, that many, if not most, perpetrators do not have a diagnosable mental illness and that the large majority of people with diagnosable mental illness are not violent toward others.” 

We believe this public health issue demands attention on many fronts.  We need to support research to better understand the causes of hate, effectively treat traits associated with violence and promote mental health services and supports from childhood to adulthood.  Only by actively looking at all influences of cultural change in our society, and not resorting to blame, can we change the course of our future.

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