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Replacing mental health stigma with hope

By Goodhue County Make It OK

This year, Oct. 7-13 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, a time to shine a light on mental illness and replace stigma with hope. Mental Illnesses are very common in the world today — one in five adults experiences a mental illness in any given year.

Mental Illnesses can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, religion or income. Yet people are still afraid to talk about them due to shame, misunderstanding, negative attitudes and fear of discrimination.

Approximately half of chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14. Unfortunately, long delays — sometimes decades — often occur between the time the symptoms first appear and when people get help.

It's time to start talking about mental illness; so, during Mental Illness Awareness Week, please take the first step by taking the Make It OK Pledge at www.makeitok.org. Make It OK is a campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses. By signing this pledge, you are taking a stand against the mental illness stigma. Pass it on. Print it out. Tape it up. It can serve as a reminder to start more conversations and stop the labeling. Together, we can Make It OK.

Here is the experience of one of our Make it OK Ambassadors:

"My story is similar to so many other people, with symptoms appearing at least ten years before I reached out for help. It was another two years before being connected with an appropriate doctor, and reaching the correct diagnosis, which is Bipolar Type II Disorder. Medication helps to keep me stable, and it took me all these years to be ok with that. Throughout those years of battling with myself, I refused to ask for help because, to me, that would mean admitting that I felt that I was failing. If I had any other illness, I would not have felt that way. Hopefully, if we all work together to reduce the stigma around mental illnesses, others won't have to feel like they are failing and maybe they will seek treatment sooner."

It is not only critical to recognize the early symptoms of mental illness, but to also seek treatment. Early identification and treatment can make a big difference for successful management of a condition.

Goodhue County Make It OK is a community campaign that focuses on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and starting conversations about the topic. We have pledged to work together to change hearts and minds about the misconceptions of mental illness through awareness, education and encouraging open conversations about this important topic. We have a monthly newsletter that shares upcoming events, examples of what other Ambassadors are doing in their communities and new opportunities for each of you to spread the word about Make It OK. If you are interested in receiving our monthly newsletter please contact Laura at 651-385-3217.

NAMI offers helpful information through its website, www.nami.org, and helpline at 800-950-NAMI.

NAMI also offers free education classes and support groups. Anyone who experiences symptoms of mental illness should see a doctor to discuss and be checked for possibly related physical conditions. The next step might be a referral to a mental health specialist. Many treatment options exist.

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