Fighting the Stigma

Dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks can make you feel isolated; but if you’re feeling that way, just know you’re not alone.

“About one in five people in the U.S. suffer from mental illness in a given year, one in four people struggle with mental illness in their lifetime, that’s 25% of people. The problem is that only half of those people ever get help with what they’re struggling with,” said Kelly Logan, Lead Clinical Therapist at Linden Oaks at Edward Hospital.

The fear of being judged and the stigma behind mental illness is often the reason most people don’t seek help. Psychologists like Scott Mitchell are working to shift perception to make reaching out for help more the norm.

“People sometimes will judge others with mental illness as though they are weak when that’s not at all the case. Mental illness is in some way invisible, so when you think of someone that’s got the flu or they have heart disease or something like that, you can see it, where mental illness you don’t often see it but the symptoms are there,” said President and CEO of Samaritan Interfaith Counsling Center, Scott Mitchell.

And the longer a person waits to address the issue, the more harm it can cause for them down the line.

“If it’s not treated, it can get to a point that it can not only get out of control, but it’s going to be more difficult to treat. It’s no different than you take your child to the dentist every six months to a year to get their teeth checked, you take them to a doctor to get a physical, why wouldn’t you take a child in for the mental piece of it also for a check up?” said Kimberly Groll, President of Achieving Solutions Counseling.

The most common ways patients are treated are through medication or counseling and under the Parity Act, most insurance providers require mental health services to be covered.

To help push people to get that help available, professionals have been working to shift the stigma around mental illness. And right here in DuPage County, mental health specialists are taking an active approach to do just that.

“I think a good program that’s out there is Mental Health First Aid, and it’s a national movement that actually trains people, first responders, educators, detecting signs and symptoms of mental health and illness and it goes a long way to normalize it and stigmatize it,” said Mitchell.

Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare offers courses throughout the year ranging from $30-40. With this community effort, they hope to push people to see mental health in a different light.

“The more we do, the more it’ll be the kind of thing we can talk about, like heart disease or the flu or anything else,” said Mitchell.

For those who think they may need help, but are not comfortable with speaking about private issues, you can check out edward.org to take an online assessment to see if you’re at risk.

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