Initiative Counters Stigma and Discrimination
SAMHSA recently launched an Elimination of Barriers Initiative in eight states:
California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Texas, and Wisconsin. The Initiative is a 3-year effort aimed at
identifying effective public education approaches to combat the
stigma and discrimination associated with mental illnesses.
"All Americans must understand that mental illnesses are illnesses
that can be diagnosed reliably and treated effectively, and that
recovery is possible," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie,
M.A., A.C.S.W. "Sadly, misconceptions about mental illness continue,
and many people hide their symptoms and avoid treatment. The Elimination
of Barriers Initiative is designed to help more Americans understand
the facts surrounding mental illness, reduce stigma, and increase
their willingness to seek help for mental health problems."
The Initiative, funded with $5.4 million over 3 years, will allow
for a series of meetings in each state to reach consensus on steps
to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Strategies
developed by the Initiative are expected to focus on opportunities
for action in schools and businesses.
In any given year, about 5 to 7 percent of adults have a serious
mental illness, according to several nationally representative studies.
A similar percentage of children, about 5 to 9 percent, have a serious
emotional disturbance. The annual prevalence figures translate into
millions of adults and children disabled by mental illness. Almost
half of these individuals do not seek treatment, in part because
of the shame associated with mental illnesses in American society.
The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health-whose goal
is to recommend improvements to enable adults with serious mental
illnesses and children with serious emotional disturbances to live,
work, learn, and participate fully in their communities-has identified
stigma as one of the major barriers to mental health care in America.
(See SAMHSA News, Volume
X, Number 4; and Volume XI, Number 2.)
"All Americans must understand that mental illnesses are illnesses that can be diagnosed reliably and treated effectively, and that recovery is possible."
Charles G. Curie, SAMHSA Administrator
To launch the Initiative, a state partnership meeting will take
place in each of the target states. This meeting will provide an
overview of the Elimination of Barriers Initiative, as well as a
public forum for stakeholders and other interested parties to discuss
ways to counter stigma and discrimination. This input will then
be used to make the Initiative more effective.
For more information, contact SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information
Center, P.O. Box 42490, Washington, DC 20015. Telephone: 1 (800)
789-2647 or 1 (866) 889-2647 (TTY). Or, visit www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov.
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