Here in Sacramento County, it is estimated that approximately 355,000 residents live with mental illness, but research shows that only one-third will seek professional help, primarily due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. Culture also plays a large role in the stigma experienced by people living with a mental illness, and can sometimes add additional barriers to seeking treatment.
The ”Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project aims to promote messages of hope and recovery, encourage conversation around mental illness, and underscore that mental illness can affect anyone. Roughly one in every four adults and one in five children will experience a diagnosable mental health condition during their lifetime.
“The aim of the project is to reduce stigma and discrimination, as well as to inspire hope for people and families living with mental illness, in our community,” said Dr. Sherri Heller, Director of Sacramento County’s Department of Health and Human Services. “The more people who know about mental illness, the better they can help themselves or help their loved ones get the help and support they need. This is why Mental Illness Awareness Week is so important – stigma around mental illness is a major obstacle to people seeking help when they need it.”
There are several ways to help reduce stigma and get involved with the project:
3. Share your personal story of hope and recovery to help stop stigma and discrimination toward people and families living with mental illness. Telling your story may encourage others to share their experiences and may end the silence that contributes to isolation and shame.
MIAW, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is observed nationally Oct. 5-11 and provides an opportunity to increase awareness and reduce stigma around mental illnesses. This year’s theme, “It’s Time to Take Action” encourages people to address stigma and make a difference.
For more information on Sacramento County’s stigma and discrimination reduction project, please visit www.stopstigmasacramento.org. Residents can also call 2-1-1 Sacramento (2-1-1 or TTY 916-446-1434), which is a free information and referral service for the community. Calls are always confidential and interpreters are available.