Mental Illness Awareness Week: Eliminating Stigma through Education

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Hopefully we will hear a bit more than usual this week about mental illness since it is Mental Illness Awareness Week.  I long for the day when mental health and physical health are no longer separated.  Mental illness and addiction are diseases of the brain, and the brain is part of body.  It seems simple, but we continue to treat mental illness as something separate, and, in some cases, less legitimate than a physical ailment such as heart disease or diabetes.  Classifying mental illnesses in the same way as physical diseases would do a lot to eliminate the stigma that continues to surround illnesses such as depression and alcoholism.  As I just heard today in an NPR interview with, Jenny Lawson, author of “Furiously Happy”, there remains a large number of people who think that someone with depression just needs to cheer up or stop being lazy.  We must educate these people who simply don’t know any better.

We specifically have an exceptional amount of room for improvement here in Oklahoma where we rank second in the nation for our number of adults with serious mental illness.  We really have nowhere to go but up from the pitifully low amount per capita spent on mental health, $56.22.  There are only a handful of states that manage to spend less than Oklahoma.

Two organizations in our community, NAMI Tulsa (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Mental Health Association Oklahoma do everything they can to advocate for individuals with mental illness.  NAMI Tulsa kicked off Mental Illness Awareness Week with the, “Out of the Darkness Suicide Awareness Walk” last Saturday, and they will be hosting events every day this week in their ongoing efforts to decrease stigma through education about mental illness.

There is hope and help available if you or your loved one is dealing with mental illness.  You can reach us at Brookhaven Hospital by dialing 888-298-HOPE (4673).

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