Mental Health Stigma
Google the most popular Presidents in the United States history and odds are that Abraham Lincoln will be in the number one spot or within the top three. Honest Abe was a Civil War hero, who “saved the Union,” authored the Gettysburg Address, issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves, and…was a person who suffered chronic and pervasive depression. A condition at times so acute, that his friends and neighbors would form suicide watches over him.
So why was he allowed to be in a position of authority, making decisions on a daily basis about important military and national policy? Does this question seem disrespectful, or offensive? Possibly, yet everyday in current society are examples of attitudes that convey disparagement of character, devaluation of abilities and a marginalization of persons with mental illness. Prejudices that view such individuals as incompetent, irresponsible, and violent.
An intelligent, creative and caring person is too often reduced to a diagnostic label and unfortunately these biases may also be a barrier in seeking help for conditions that are very treatable.
Citing concerns they will be viewed as inadequate or defective which may in turn, lead to rejection from family and friends, loss of employment, insurance, gun rights, bullying or persecution; less than half of the adults in the U.S. who need services and treatment get the help they need. This is concerning considering the need.
The Centers for Disease Control report about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness with almost 50% likely to develop a mental illness in their lifetime. Other National surveys estimated 1 in 5 children experienced a serious mental illness and by 2030, projections are that at least 15 million older adults will suﬀer a mental illness.
Why care about the stigmatization of mental health? Data shows the needs have risen to a Public Health level but it is also personal – this could be your parent, your child, your friend…it may at some point, be you.
It is important to be informed and talk openly about mental health to dispel myths and prejudices. It is also important to see more than the illness, to recognize the strengths, gifts and other qualities that are a more accurate characterization of the person.
Lincoln’s contribution to society was significant and a testimony of the human spirit in prevailing against adversity. It could even be said that Depression played a significant role in developing Lincoln’s humility, conviction, discerning insight and wisdom. A history without Lincoln would indeed be a poorer history.
by Annabelle Payne, Director – Pend Oreille County Counseling Services
Pend Oreille County Counseling Services provides outpatient substance use disorder and mental health treatment, to include case management supports for inpatient treatment. Counseling Services also partners with Newport Hospital and Health Services for medication-assisted treatment. Call 509.447.5651 Website