Mental Health Awareness

The Patient As Advocate
March 22, 2009, 12:01 pm
Filed under: awareness, Education | Tags: , , , ,
Stand Up, Speak Up – Getting the Best Care for Yourself
Everyone has a role in providing the best health care for you – organizational executives, physicians, therapists, nurses and technicians. And, above all, YOU! You do this by becoming an active, informed, and involved consumer and member of the health care team. 

Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with almost 98,000 occurring annually according to the Institute of Medicine. The more involved we are, the less likely we are to have an adverse reaction. Ways to do this include

Speaking up if you have any questions or concerns, and ask again if you still dont understand. It is your body and you have the right to know.

Pay Attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you are getting the right medications, for instance. Don’t assume anything. 

Educate Yourself about your diagnosis, any medical tests or procedures you will have done, and be an active participant in determining your treatment plan.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be an advocate for you that can ask questions you may not think of under stress, and may not remember the answers to.

Know what medications you take and why you take them. Know their side-effects, and how long the side-effects should last if you are just beginning a medication. Learn if there is anything you can do to alleviate the side-effects. Medication errors are the most common health care mistake.

Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.

After following these general rules, more specifically, try to:

Inform your doctors about medications your are taking, including prescriptions, over the counter drugs, and herbal or dietary supplements.

Inform your doctors about your allergies any any adverse reactions you may have experienced

Inform your doctors of any dietary restrictions you may have

Ask your staff for written information about possible side effects to your medications

Be an advocate of your own care. Ask your friend or relative to also be your patient advocate

Question your nurse, doctor, or pharmacist if your medications look different from the way they looked before, or if the number of medications is different

Learn about your condition by asking your doctor, nurse, therapist, or any other reliable sourse any questions you may have regarding your illness

Make sure that your prescriptions are legible

If you are in the hospital, when you are discharged if you have any questions regarding your treatment plan to be used at home, ask your doctors or staff for an explanation.

Finally, discuss any concerns you have with your caregiver in an assertive (not aggressive) manner.




Grading The States


 National Average is a D 14 States Improve Grades; 12 Fall Backwards State Budget Crises Threaten Ruin Washington, D.C. – The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has released a new report, Grading the States, assessing the nation’s public mental health care system for adults and finding that the national average grade is a D.

Fourteen states improved their grades since NAMI’s last report card three years ago. Twelve states fell backwards. Oklahoma showed the greatest improvement in the nation, rising from a D to a B. South Carolina fell the farthest, from a B to a D. However, the report comes at a time when state budget cuts are threatening mental health care overall.

“Mental health care in America is in crisis,” said NAMI executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick. “Even states that have worked hard to build life-saving, recovery-oriented systems of care stand to see their progress wiped out.” “Ironically, state budget cuts occur during a time of economic crisis when mental heath services are needed even more urgently than before. It is a vicious cycle that can lead to ruin. States need to move forward, not retreat.”

This is the second report NAMI has published to measure progress in transforming what a presidential commission on mental health called “a system in shambles.” NAMI’s grades for 2009 include six Bs, 18 Cs, 21 Ds and six Fs, based on 65 specific criteria such as access to medicine, housing, family education, and support for National Guard members.

“Too many people living with mental illness end up hospitalized, on the street, in jail or dead,” Fitzpatrick said. “We need governors and legislators willing to make investments in change.”

In 2006, the national average was D. Three years later, it has not budged. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Full Grading the States report online at:

House and NAMI partnership
February 2, 2009, 7:36 am
Filed under: awareness | Tags: , , , ,



FOX TV’s HOUSE & NAMI Renew Partnership

The hit FOX TV drama House has once again teamed with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to raise money and awareness in support of people with mental illness and their families.

T-shirts bearing the slogan (or “House-ism”) “Normal’s Overrated” went on sale Thursday, January 22 with proceeds benefiting NAMI.

A similar partnership in 2007 raised over $130,000 for NAMI.

The 2009 partnership was announced to the media at an exclusive 100th episode party for the show last Wednesday in Los Angeles, where the NAMI logo was proudly displayed along the red carpet.  In addition, House cast and crew members each wore the special t-shirts to the event.

House is making an enormous contribution to public education by lending the show’s celebrity profile to raise funds,” said NAMI executive director Mike Fitzpatrick, who was in attendance at the event.

“NAMI thanks the producers, cast, and crew of House. You are making a difference in people’s lives.” Fitzpatrick added.

The event was covered by multiple media outlets including Entertainment Tonight which aired a piece featuring the cast of House discussing the relationship between the show and NAMI.

NAMI has created a special section on where visitors can purchase t-shirts, see highlights from the event, and even help NAMI by downloading a widget which can easily be added to social networking profile pages such as Facebook and MySpace. 

Join NAMI and House in celebrating this important partnership by purchasing your t-shirt today.


“Advocacy For Mental Illness” PDF.

“Advocacy is an important means of raising awareness on mental health issues and insuring that mental health is on the narional agenda of govenrnments. Advocacy can lead to improvements in policy, legislation, and service development.”

Get involved and make a difference…
January 9, 2009, 7:19 pm
Filed under: awareness, stigma | Tags: , , ,

Get Involved With Mental Health

Do you want to take action to remove stigma at your school? We get a lot of requests from people wondering what they can do to educate students on their campuses. One of the best ways to remove stigma is peer to peer education. Here are some ideas you can do at your high school or college:

Bring a Speaker – Have a speaker give an assembly to your whole high school or speak to for certain events on your campus. You can check out our speakers or write to us for more information.

Start an Active Minds Chapter – If you’re in college then this is the perfect time for you to form a group to educate others. Active Minds on Campus is a student-run mental health awareness, education, and advocacy organization designed for the college campus. The group’s mission is to utilize peer outreach to increase student’s awareness of mental health issues, provide information and resources, encourage students to seek help, and serve as a liaison between students and the mental health community. To start an Active Minds chapter on your college campus, check out

Start Your Own Mental Health Group – If your school doesn’t have a mental health awareness group and you want them to, find other students who share this interest, get an advisor and start your own group. You can work with the counseling center to find resources and work together on promoting events.

Organize a mental health fair – It can be held at the student center, in the quad, or a similar well-trafficked area. Ask mental health professionals to volunteer their time to be on hand to answer questions about mental health. Distribute information about mental health and mental illness. Offer professional mental health screenings

Observe Mental Health Weeks and Days – Mental Illness Awareness Week occurs during the second week of October, and May is Mental Health Month. You can create a mental health awareness campaign to commemorate either of these dates. During these campaigns, offer resources of warning signs, statistics, where students can get help, and tables where students can make stress balls, get a massage to relieve stress, trace their bodies on paper to promote healthy body image or other various interactive activities.

Partner, Partner, Partner – If you can’t start your own group or even if you do, make sure you work with other groups like SADD, Peer Helpers, fraternities, sororities, athletes, student council or whomever you can to have them tie mental health awareness into their drug, alcohol, sexually transmitted illnesses or any educational issue by using relevant statistics like 66% of young people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health issue. You can also tie mental health into freshman orientations, after a tragic event on campus or even around stressful times like finals, midterms etc.

Speak to classes – You can ask to speak about mental health or your experiences on behalf of your new group to health classes, psychology classes, or any other class you feel is appropriate. If someone wants to speak about their personal experience they should have the permission and guidance of a mental health professional or counselor.

Organize a walk or run – Organize a walk, run or other event to raise money for mental health awareness. Use the money to expand your outreach or donate the money to a local mental health organization or national mental health organization that you would like to support.

Work with your counseling center to start a support group – Coordinate with your counseling center or local mental health professionals to organize a support group for students or members of your sorority to discuss their problems or a specific problem i.e. eating disorders, depression, abuse, divorce, etc.. The group will need to be supervised by a mental health professional (psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or anyone qualified). If organizing your own group through the guidance of a professional isn’t available, then find out where support groups meet and provide information on the groups to students.

Make posters – You can make posters to place around your campus that highlight statistics, warning signs or disorders, ask questions or give someone the ability to write down most of their thoughts when suffering with a mental disorder. The goal of the posters should be to encourage people to seek help and know they’re not alone.

Provide resources – Contact a local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Mental Health America, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the Suicide Action Prevention Network, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, Yellow Ribbon, or other groups to find free local mental health resources and promote those resources to the school.

Reach out to Parents – Ask the administration at your school to start sending home warning signs of mental disorders and resources available for students who may be suffering to help educate parents on mental health issues.

Write an article – Contact your school newspaper and write a relevant article on mental health issues or even possibly share your own story. You can tie this into mental health days or weeks or any events you may be doing at your high school or college.


Scapegoating and Stigma
December 13, 2008, 6:51 am
Filed under: Education | Tags: , ,

Scapegoating And Mental Illness Stigma
Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

What is wrong with this picture?


Youre a work supervisor and you get an early morning telephone call from one of your employees. The employee tells you that his panic attacks have him paralyzed this morning and that he will be late into work. You tell him that you are glad he called and that he should come back to work as soon as he can.

If Ive illustrated my point properly, what seemed odd to you was that any employee would even consider calling in sick with an anxiety disorder a mental illness. That this would be an odd event to you is evidence for what Mays editorial/essay is about the stigma attached to mental health issues and disorders. As Ill use the phrase, mental health stigma refers to the stereotyped set of negative attitudes, inaccurate beliefs and fears about mental health issues that influence how mental health issues are understood. There is no inherent reason for why mental illness should be thought to be any more of a negative or frightening thing than any physical illness and yet it is. In the paragraphs ahead, Ill see if I cant introduce some ideas for why this should be; where mental health stigma comes from, what its dimensions are, and what can be done about it.

It is hard to understand how one thing gets stigmatized while another thing does not without also understanding one of the important ways that stigmas get applied the process of scapegoating. The term scapegoating refers originally to a rather ancient sort of magical ritual, used extensively in religious practices, to clean a community of sin. In the scapegoating ritual, the sins of a community are magically transferred from the community members onto an animal (a goat or other animal suitable for sacrifice) and then the animal is destroyed or driven off away from the community. The community practicing scapegoating believed that, through the destruction or segregation of the sacrificial animal which magically now carried all the sin for the community, that the community was cleansed in front of what ever form of deity might be judging them.

If you look at this scapegoat practice with a literal eye, it seems absurd. How stupid were these people to think that their personal sins, guilts, crimes and the like could be transferred to a goat. How much stupider were these people to think that the destruction of this sin-laden animal could cancel out their own sin, guilt, crime? To make sense of this ritual, it must be understood that the process of transfer of sin was a psychological (and spiritual?) one, and not a physical one. Psychologically, what was actually being transferred was a set of negative judgments. The judgments were being transferred from one object to another; from the self-concepts of the guilty, sinful community members to the goat. The psychological act of transferring personal sin away from the self and onto something else did create palpable relief in the minds of the community members who participated in the scapegoat ritual.

While literal sacrifice of scapegoated animals is less popular today than it used to be, the psychological practice of scapegoating has remained alive and well and has shaped our cultural attitudes towards mental illness.

In his landmark book, Madness and Civilization, the cultural historian Michel Foucault described an interesting scapegoating practice that took place during medieval Europe of the 1500s and later. Europe at the time was in a transition period. In the recent past, the terrible medical disease of Leprosy had been rampant, with many persons infected. As you might expect when dealing with a disease that involves having your flesh rot off your living body, lepers were in many cases forced out of society into isolated colonies. In contrast to the scapegoated lepers, the mentally ill of the day were not segregated from society, but rather were an accepted part of society. Some mentally ill were even reverently thought to have been favored by God as holy fools. As the plague of leprosy retreated from Europe and was no longer a threat, the Europeans began to convert their now empty leper colonies into hospitals and to populate these hospitals with the mentally ill who came to be increasingly viewed as a threat to society. It was as though the Europeans needed to maintain a scapegoated class and when there were no more lepers to segregate and look upon as sinful and threatening, a scapegoat-vacuum was created. This vacuum was ultimately filled by making the mentally ill into the new scapegoats for society. The mentally ill appear to have been a primary target of this stigma-creating scapegoating process ever since.


The modern stigma attached to mental health has two major component beliefs, neither of which has any substantial basis in reality:

  • The belief that the mentally ill are Violent and a Threat to Society. (The mentally ill are crazed killers who hear voices to kill other people and then do so). 
  • The belief that mentally ill persons are Weak, and that they are Moral Failures. (Mental illness is evidence of a failure of strength. Mentally ill persons could have prevented their illnesses or could pull out of them if only they werent such weaklings).


Society acts on these mistaken and unsupported beliefs in profound ways:

  • There is inadequate national funding for research or treatment of mental illness. 
  • Private sector mental health institutions can barely meet expenses and frequently lose money simply because they cannot get public sector health coverage to pay for necessary services. 
  • Health Insurers offer much less adequate coverage for mental health problems than they do for physical health problems and fight grassroots efforts to mandate equal treatment of recognized disorders. 
  • Employees with a history of mental illness must be careful about disclosing their treatment history for fear of discrimination. 
  • Television shows like ABCs recent Wonderland reinforce the stereotypes of the violent killer mental patient. 
  • Media pay close attention to mentally ill persons who commit violent crimes, but not to mentally ill persons who get better and lead productive lives.


You can work to combat these injustices by recognizing them when they occur and working to correct them through responsible social pressure. A primary way to achieve this goal is to support the activities of groups that exist to combat mental health stigma.

Two notable groups come to mind that are worth your attention:

  • The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is a grassroots, self-help and family advocacy organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic depression), major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. 
  • The National Mental Health Association (NMHA) strives to improve attitudes toward mental illness and the mentally ill; to improve services for the mentally ill; to work for the prevention of mental illness and promote mental health. They are active in legislative efforts to get insurance companies to pony up payments for needed services.


If there is a lesson in this editorial/essay, I hope it is this. People create stigma out of their own fears and ignorance. Through education and awareness, people can also undo the harmful stigmas they have created and maintained. Reference:
Dombeck, M.J. (May 2000). Scapegoating and Mental Illness Stigma [Online]. Mental Help Net.

Source: Here

Mental health resources


The following organizations provide information and resources for mental illness:

Severe Anxiety
Overcoming Social Phobia One Step At A Time
A well-written site about Social Phobia, resources for help, advice for dealing with the illness, and links to many other sites. “Severe social anxiety is one of the most difficult disorders to overcome. It can literally destroy your life in a matter of months. People do no realize that their is no real treatment to rid yourself of social anxiety, sure there is medication that is available through your family doctor. But how on earth does someone with severe social anxiety get this medication when their number one fear is in social interaction?”

Center for Mental Health Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Phone: 301-443-8956

Resource Center to Address Discrimination and Stigma
ADS Center
11420 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
Toll Free Phone: 1-800-540-0320

Drug Abuse Information and Treatment Referral Line
(Sponsored by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment)
TollFree: 800-622-HELP (4357)

Health Resources and Services Administration Information Center (HRSA)
TollFree: (888) 275-4772

National Institute of Mental Health
Office of Communications
Phone: 301-443-4513
Toll Free: 1-866-615-NIMH (6464)
TTY: 301-443-8431

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Phone: 212-363-3500
Fax: 212-363-6237
Toll Free: 888-333-AFSP

American Psychiatric Association (APA)
Phone: 703-907-7300

American Psychological Association
Phone: 202-336-5510
Toll Free: 1-800-374-2721

Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Phone: 240-485-1001

Borderline Personality Disorder Research Foundation (BPDRF)
New York State Psychiatric Institute
Phone: 212-543-6247

Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation
Phone: 847-256-8525

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
Phone: 312-642-0049

Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association (DRADA)
Phone: 410-583-2919

Freedom from Fear
Phone: 718-351-1717

National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD)
Phone: 516-829-0091
Toll Free: 800-829-8289

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
Phone: 703-524-7600
Toll Free: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

National Eating Disorders Association
Phone: 206-382-3587

National Mental Health Association (NMHA)
Phone: 703-684-7722
Toll Free: 1-800-969-6642
TTY: 800-443-5959

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
National Mental Health Information Center
Toll Free: 800-789-2647
TTY: 866-889-2647

The Reach Institute

The Reach Insitiute

 This 501c3 non-profit has the CEO’s of many of the family advocacy organizations on its board. It’s mission is to ensure that the latest interventions are available in every community by ensuring that health care providers can get trained in the latest methods.

Peter S. Jensen, MD
President & CEO, The REACH Institute
REsource for Advancing Children’s Health