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Published October 16, 2015

Mental Health Awareness: Stomp Out The Stigma

Alexander McQueen, fashion designer who died by hanging. Tony Scott, director of Top Gun who jumped from a bridge. Lee Thompson Young, actor who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Robin Williams, comedian and actor who died from hanging.

Those four individuals, who were all highly respected and successful in their fields, seemed to have it all. Little did we know that behind closed doors they were struggling with issues that fame and fortune couldn’t fix. In their minds, suicide was the only option.

Upon the news of their deaths, people were all abuzz about the plight of those struggling with depression. The 1-800 helpline numbers popped up at the end of television tribute shows. People asked, “How did we not know?” or “What could we have done?” But, as soon as the person is laid to rest, so is all the concern about mental illness. The helpline numbers disappear and most go back to their normal lives.

RELATED: The Art Of Being You: 4 Steps To Finding Your True Self.

But what happens to little Johnny who can’t get an official diagnosis or proper medication because of insurance issues? Or Stephanie who won’t go to therapy because she thinks it will embarrass her family?

What happens to the 61.5 million other people who experience some form of mental illness each year? Do we wait for the next celebrity suicide to remind us that people are suffering and in need of help?

In the month of October, there will be events that will hopefully refocus everyone’s attention on these very important issues and concerns. October 8 is National Depression Screening Day. Individuals may participate in an anonymous screening and, if necessary, receive referrals for future treatment.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) is hoping that the theme of “Dignity in Mental Health” will draw attention to the problem of the mentally ill being denied their human rights. Seeking out and sticking with treatment is hard enough without the added pressure of being mistreated in the process. WHO is hoping to raise awareness about the need for policies and trainings that are needed to ensure that patients feel like active, respected participants in their own care.

Mental Health Awareness Week (October 11-17) is taking on the biggest challenge by aiming to break the stigma associated with mental illness. The #IAmStigmaFree campaign is hoping to shift the focus from the diagnosis to the individual. Changing the mindset around mental illness is a crucial step in making it “okay” for people to seek treatment.

J.K. Rowling is quoted as having said:

  • I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that.

Let’s hope that as these events take place in October, more people begin to take on this attitude and face mental illness head on.

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  • Sheon Little


  • Sheon The Writer is a middle school teacher turned technology specialist, poet and essayist. She has work appearing at Carolina Woman's online publication. She has been a member of several writing groups in North Carolina. Sheon The Writer hopes to publish a collection of poems and essays. All my articles.

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