By Kristin Hammam
It’s estimated that one in five Americans has a mental illness such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s more people than have high cholesterol or break an arm each year. But as common as mental illness is, there’s still a stigma surrounding it. People don’t like to talk about it for fear of being judged by schools, employers, and even friends and family.
President Barack Obama opened a national conference at the White House Monday to bring mental health “out of the shadows.”
“The brain is a body part too; we just know less about it,” President Obama said. “And there should be no shame in discussing or seeking help for treatable illnesses that affect too many people that we love. We’ve got to get rid of that embarrassment; we’ve got to get rid of that stigma.”
WebMD joined the conference along with mental health professionals, faith leaders, administration officials, and veterans’ groups. Actor Bradley Cooper, who played a man with bipolar disorder in the movie Silver Linings Playbook, also attended the conference along with actor Glenn Close. Close talked about her personal experiences with her sister, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and a nephew with schizoaffective disorder.
In the spirit of starting a national conversation about mental health, many groups shared their efforts to both reduce stigma and help people seek treatment.
MTV spotlighted its program, “Half of Us,” designed to help connect college students to the appropriate resources to get help. President Obama announced the Department of Veterans Affairs will direct health care centers to hold mental health summits over the summer to help support veterans and their families. And Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the launch of a new website – www.mentalhealth.gov – featuring personal stories from people with mental illnesses.
“For many people who suffer from a mental illness, recovery can be challenging,” President Obama said. “But what helps more than anything, what gives so many of our friends and loved ones strength, is the knowledge that you are not alone”
What can WebMD do to better help reduce the stigma of mental illness and help people seek treatment? We’d love to hear your ideas to keep the conversation going.