From Stigma to Success
Today we are kicking off the month of May. May is such a busy and exciting time: showing appreciation for your mother, graduations, “May flowers” (and no more of those pesky “April showers”). The possibilities for things going on during this month are endless. However, there is one thing of which you may not be aware: May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month is set aside to raise awareness about mental illness, the realities that come with living with these conditions, and the different strategies that exist for attaining mental health and wellness. It was started by Mental Health America in 1949. Let that sink in.
We have been trying to break through the stigma of mental health for almost 70 years!
You may be thinking, “Okay…another awareness month.” “What does this have to do with me?” Or, most importantly, “What does this have to do with the Star Center?” So, let’s explore these thoughts.
ANOTHER Awareness Month????
Yes. Another one. These months are used to bring attention to an issue. The two most known/accepted ones are Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) and Autism Awareness Month (April). Organizations rally together during these times to provide resources, treatments, and community to those affected by the assigned issue. Mental Health Awareness Month is no different. The most known organization involved is the founding organization, Mental Health America. Each year they decide on a theme of focus revolving around mental health. A “tool box” of resources is developed and made available on their website. The theme for 2016 was “Mental Illness Feels Like,” and it was coupled with the social media tag #mentalillnessfeelslike. This allowed users to share their visual manifestations of their disorder with the world. This year, the powers that be have rolled out the 2017 theme as “Risky Business.” The goal of this theme is to educate people about habits and behaviors that increase the possibility of developing or exacerbating already existing mental illnesses. The hope is to make everyone aware of possible warning signs in order to better provide early interventions. The 2017 Tool Box for “Risky Business” can be downloaded here.
What Does This Have to Do With Me?
The short answer is: A LOT.
DISCLAIMER: This is the section that gets technical; so, forgive me if it comes off as a bit preachy.
The National Mental Health Institute measures something they call DALYs. This acronym stands for disability adjusted life years, meaning the total number of years lost to
illness, disability, or premature death within a specific population. It has been estimated that Mental and Behavioral Disorders contribute to 13.6% of DALYs in the United States. That is a ranking of #3. In other words, mental illness is the 3rd leading cause of loss life in the United States. This is a group of disorders that is affecting LIVES in the most basic sense: factors that shorten a person’s life expectancy.
The leading cause of disability worldwide is depression. That means that at any given time more that 300 million people are suffering with this disorder. Less than half of those suffering in the world receive treatment, whether it be due to lack of resources or stigma associated with mental health disorders.
So, what do all of these numbers mean? Simply stated: You probably know someone who is suffering from a mental illness, and chances are, they are not receiving services effective for their recovery. By not receiving the needed interventions, this could shorten life expectancy and/or quality of life. Whether you are being directly affected by mental illness, or someone with whom you are acquainted is struggling with this type of disorder, Mental Health Awareness Month is applicable for everyone.
What Does Any of This Have to Do With the Star Center?
Does the Star Center offer any mental health services?
Not at this time (but don’t count us out yet; you never know what aspects the talent of at the Star Center will touch).
So, why have you been reading this blog on Mental Health Awareness Month?
Even though we do not provide direct services at this time, the mental health of our clients is very important to the success of the Star Center. I work in Employment Services doing Vocational Evaluations for our clients. We receive referrals from clients with every type of disability imaginable: physical, genetic, visual, hearing, etc. In my experience, if mental health is mentioned in the referral, it will be during my interview. Whether it was present since childhood or it has manifested since being affected by their disability, our client population at the Star Center is part of the underserved statistics.
The services that my department provides has to do with social skills, work training, and employment. Mental Health plays an extremely important role in these facets of life. Harvard University did a study on mental health problems in the workplace in 2010. One of the key points made in the publication was that, while mental health disorder do contribute to missed days at work, the largest impact was noticeable in the loss of work productivity. Without the proper interventions, our clients risk being less productive in training, which hones the skills needed for successful employment. The lack of success can then further affect their mental health. It is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
This is only one example of why Mental Health Awareness Month is so important to those of us at the Star Center. You could talk to someone in every department in this facility, and they could each give you a different example of how mental health treatment impacts client success. In a population that is already fighting to overcome different obstacles, why should they have to face stigma for receiving treatment for mental illness? Help make a difference. #breakthestigma
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (aka Crisis Hotline): 800.273.8255
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: nami.org
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: samhsa.gov
- National Institute of Mental Health: nimh.nih.gov