On Mental Illness and Stigma

In recent years, society has begun to recognize and tackle the stigmas that are present in our world. Often, it is the most apparent subjects — matters that are often addressed in politics and conversation — that receive attention for the stigmas associated with them: race, ethnicity, class, disabilities, gender, etc.

Those who suffer with mental illness and deal day to day with its difficulties and implications are often forced to confront prejudices from many sides for a reality created by no fault of their own. They are often victims of isolation, discrimination, and misunderstanding rather than being prioritized as individuals in need of care.

Negative attitudes and inherent discrimination perpetuate a fear of exposure, of seeking treatment, and of being hospitalized rather than encouraging mental health care and open discussion to facilitate awareness and improvement.

Mental health care needs to be normalized and seen as a part of overall health. It has a symbiotic relationship with physical health, and neither can be well understood without considering the other. Psychiatric and psychological care needn’t be viewed shamefully in this day and age when approximately 20% of the U.S. population has or is affected by a mental illness. Anyone anywhere can experience mental health problems, and diminishing the severity, prevalence, and importance of mental health and illness can have devastating consequences.

All too often, people with serious mental disorders end up homeless or in the prison system where they are likely not to receive the mental health care they require. According to the Department of Justice, about 15% of state prisoners and 24% of jail inmates are suffering from mental illnesses. This suggests that incarceration will ameliorate the problem when no evidence suggests such a result is likely.

Mental health care infrastructure in the U.S. overall is quite poor, but Arizona is surging forward and trying to improve our statewide care options and research capabilities to change this circumstance and increase knowledge and access. This makes IMHR’s work to establish mental health care facilities and fund critical research into the subject even more vital. IMHR Epicenter, our early psychosis intervention center, has the central purpose of treating early on-set psychosis in individuals ages 15-35. Young adults represent a particularly large high-risk, underserved group in the Phoenix community, especially with the presence of large Arizona universities that draw in significant numbers of youth.

Not only does IMHR aim to raise awareness about stigmatization and educate the public about mental illness through events and outreach, but we put our donor dollars directly into funding crucial research projects being conducted by local scientists and investigators.  The goal is to push forward the development of effective mental health care infrastructure in Arizona.

This holiday season, give the gift of progress by donating to the Institute for Mental Health Research, funding research and answers in mental health and making a difference in Arizona communities. Any amount helps us on our mission!

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