With July named as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, it seemed fitting to discuss this accomplished author, activist, and NAMI leader who worked here in Los Angeles. Bebe was a fierce advocate who I had the great fortune of meeting before she passed away in 2006.
She was committed to addressing the challenges that multicultural communities face in dealing with mental illness: less access to treatment, poorer quality of care, higher levels of stigma, culturally insensitive health care systems, discrimination in treatment settings, language barriers, and lower rates of health insurance.
So here I am, writing this at the NAMI National Convention. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness and their families. In addition to my work at LivHOME, I serve as President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Westside Los Angeles affiliate.
A mental illness, or brain disorder, is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking or mood which may affect his/her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. There is a wide spectrum of mental illnesses: Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder to name just a few. One in five adults experiences a mental health condition every year but in addition to the person directly experiencing a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also greatly impacted.
Mental illness does not discriminate; it spares no race, gender, age, or economic status. It’s been said that when mental illness strikes, it’s like a hand grenade went off in the family.
The good news: Recovery is possible, including a meaningful, productive life. Recovery is possible, especially with the help of a treatment team of doctors, therapists, social workers, and care managers to provide medical, social, and community support as well as address quality of life concerns.
The bad news: Stigma and the challenges within our mental health care system are tremendous obstacles to appropriate treatment.
Thankfully, mental health reform is currently being discussed on the national level. But stigma, defined as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something” still exists. Stigma causes individuals with mental illness and their families to suffer silently, in shame, isolating them from the help they need to find their path to recovery. Stigma impedes recovery. That’s why I am taking NAMI’s StigmaFree Pledge:
- Learn about mental health – educate myself and others
- See the person not the illness – strive to listen, understand, tell my own story
- Take action – spread the word, raise awareness, make a difference
Go to the NAMI website so you can take the Pledge too! http://www.nami.org/stigmafree And know that you don’t have to manage this alone.
LivHOME Eldercare Consultant/Care Manager
NAMI Westside Los Angeles, President