As we look to the new year and the resolutions we can make to improve our lives and the lives of others, Beacon Health Options (Beacon) urges you to resolve to break the silence and stamp out the stigma around mental illnesses. Talk about it; your story could change a life.
Today, Beacon, the nation’s premier behavioral health management company, will ask New Yorkers and those visiting the “Big Apple” to make mental health awareness their 2016 New Year’s resolution. A 23-story digital billboard in New York City’s Times Square will remind them about the importance of talking about mental illness as a means to stamp out stigma.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five U.S. adults will be affected by a mental illness in a given year, approximately 43.8 million Americans. Factoring in family, friends and colleagues, all of us are affected by mental illness in some way. Unfortunately, the reality is that approximately 30 percent of people living with mental illness say they choose not to seek treatment due to fear of judgment. The good news is that mental illness is treatable.
“You wouldn’t necessarily know the high prevalence of mental illness in the U.S. because we rarely talk about mental health in public,” said Dr. Jorge Petit, a psychiatrist and Beacon Senior Vice President, National Client Partnerships – New York Region. “Like diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, mental illness is a medical condition that requires care; yet because of the stigma that a mental illness diagnosis carries, we have made it something that is easier to hide than to seek treatment. And that needs to change.”
In 2013, ValueOptions, before it merged with Beacon Health Strategies to become Beacon Health Options, took its first step to do just that when the company launched its Stamp Out Stigma initiative. Now spearheaded by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, in which Beacon is a member, the initiative continues work to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. This campaign challenges each of us to transform the dialogue on mental health and substance use disorder from a whisper to a conversation.
More recently, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray launched ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All, an action plan to guide the city toward a more effective and holistic system to support the mental wellbeing of New Yorkers. One of the program’s principles is to change the culture by making mental health everybody’s business and promoting open conversation about it.
What can you do in 2016 to help bring mental illness out behind closed doors and into the public space?
Learn the facts about mental illness. Remind others that it is not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illness is a disease just like diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. It is treatable. See more at: www.nami.org/stigmafree.
Learn to listen with an open mind and without judgment. It can be one of the most powerful ways to support a friend, family member or colleague who has a mental illness. Visit www.naminyc.iwilllisten.org/how-to-listen/ for more information.
Sign up for a Mental Health First Aid course and learn the risk factors and warning signs of mental health and substance use problems. The course also teaches a five-step action plan to help people get the care they need in their community. Visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org.
Take the pledge to stamp out stigma and discover what you can do to recognize, educate and reduce stigma at www.stampoutstigma.com/pledge.