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The stigma surrounding mental illness promotes negative stereotypes. It labels those individuals living with mental illnesses as “other,” and suggests they should be ashamed of themselves.

It stems from ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination.

This stigma is a worldwide problem, and is certainly present in Nebraska. It is encouraged by the lack of mental health resources available to explain that mental illness is an illness like any other. This lack of resources is especially prominent in rural areas. This stigma is kept alive by individuals, so it is up to each and every person to make a commitment to live stigma free.

Common UNTRUE beliefs about mental illness:

>Mental illness is a form of weakness.

>Individuals living with mental illnesses are violent and commit crimes.

>Mental illness is a character/moral flaw.

>People living with a mental illness are scary.

>All homeless people are living with a mental illness.

TRUE facts about mental illness to tell others:

>Individuals living with a mental illness are much more likely to be a victim of a crime than commit one. Only a tiny percent of individuals living with a mental illness are dangerous.

>The majority of people living with a mental illness respond to treatment, even in severe cases.

>Mental illness occurs as a result of genetics and the environment. No one chooses to have a mental illness or acquires it as a result of laziness/weakness/evilness.

>Willpower is not enough to treat a mental illness. Treatment requires medication and/or psychotherapy.

>Some homeless people do live with mental illnesses. But some also do not. Approximately 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with a serious mental illness.

>Mental illness is very common. 20% of the population lives with a mental illness.

Consequences of the mental illness stigma:

>People living with a mental illness may feel embarrassed or ashamed.

>People living with a mental illness may not seek the treatment they need out of fear of judgment.

>People living with a mental illness may experience discrimination in the workplace, schools, religious communities, or among their family/friends.

>Police may judge people living with a mental illness as trouble-makers.

>Media may portray negative stereotypes.

>Nebraska provides insufficient funding for mental health services.

>Mental health services are especially lacking in rural areas where more stigmatization exists.

So what can we do about this problem?

>Direct, personal relationships with people living with mental illnesses are the most effective way to fight stigma.

>Spreading education and awareness to those who do not have any or accurate information.

>Support organizations whose mission is to de-stigmatize mental illness.

>Lead by example: use appropriate language when talking about mental health. For example say “an individual living with a mental illness” not a “mentally ill person.”

>Improve access to mental health care.

Become part of the solution and fight the stigma! Don’t passively let the stigmatization of mental illness continue!

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