Mental health: Busting stigma, shame, stereotypes

The Obama administration recently hosted the National Conference on Mental Health in an effort to kick off a national conversation to raise awareness about mental illness and the myriad of treatment options and resources that are currently available. The day-long White House summit on June 3, brought together individuals who have suffered from mental illness, their families, mental-health experts and treatment providers, educators, military veterans, faith leaders, advocates, policymakers and government officials.

The event was perhaps one of the most symbolic steps taken by this administration in improving the care for the 60 million Americans — age 18 and older — experiencing mental-health issues.

“Struggling with a mental illness or caring for someone who does can be isolating,” President Obama said during his opening remarks, acknowledging the continuing social stigma of mental illness.

Today, by any measure, the “Three-S” factor of mental illness — stigma, shame and stereotypes — are still prevalent in our society. Translation: Those who suffer from mental illness are still reluctant to seek treatment. Sadly, when left untreated, the symptoms of mental illness can be life-threatening given that 90 percent of suicides are related to a serious mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders), according to Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

In Miami-Dade County, according to the 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment Household Survey conducted by Professional Research Consultants, Inc., and sponsored by the Health Council of South Florida, Florida Department of Health and Health Foundation of South Florida:

• Nearly 13 percent of adults self-reported that their overall mental health (which includes stress, depression and problems with emotions) is “fair to poor” compared to roughly 12 percent of adults across the United States.

• Almost 32 percent of adults self-reported symptoms of chronic depression, compared to more than 26 percent of adults in the United States.

Stopping short of saying that the stigma of mental illness is also a form of discrimination, the president also urged our nation to end the shame and lift the veil of embarrassment associated with mental illness because “the brain is a body part, too — we just know less about it,” he said.

While I agree that there is still much more to learn about the human brain given its unimaginable complexity, our understanding of it has increased dramatically since the “Decade of the Brain” of the 1990s. Today, we know more about the brain than we used to.

I am also encouraged by the Obama administration’s ongoing commitment to further advance our knowledge of mental disorders with the recent launch of the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative on April 2. Hopefully, for the first time in history — using far-more advanced and innovative neuro-imaging technologies — scientists will have the tools that they need to create a new dynamic image of the brain that can eventually lead us to the discovery of new treatments.

Despite these exciting scientific advances, our mundane challenges with mental illness remain.

NIMH estimates that one in five Americans suffer from mental illness, but nearly half of those with serious mental illness do not seek treatment. The direct and indirect economic costs of mental illness to our society are estimated at more than $193 billion annually — and it is the most common cause of disability. The World Health Organization estimates that behavioral health disorders, such as major depression, will be the leading cause of global disability for women and children by the year 2020.

Clearly, mental health is a public health issue for our community.

Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital — a Jackson Health System facility and member of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems — is committed to leading and continuing this national dialogue on mental health.

President Obama has reminded us all that with mental illness, “recovery is possible and help is available.” Let us follow that lead.

Let’s openly discuss mental health and open the door to additional treatment by keeping mental illness out of the shadows.

R. John Repique is vice-president/chief administrative officer and chief nursing officer for Behavioral Health Services at Jackson Health System.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald


    Senators earn an ‘A’ for sexual assault bill

    Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t have much time for Democrats. But he does have two daughters. And so it was that Wednesday morning, he found himself standing in solidarity with a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill as they announced legislation to curb the scourge of sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">HARASSMENT:</span> Members of the Ladies in White opposition movement, relatives of imprisoned dissidents who draw inspiration from their faith, were arrested during a peaceful march in Havana last month.


    Support religious freedom in Cuba

    This year marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s current government and July 26 commemorated the 61st anniversary of the revolution which swept it into power. After coming to power, the Castro government broke its pro-democracy pledges and, despite recent improvements, maintains a problematic record on human rights, including religious freedom.



    Easy fix to offer relief to immigration courts

    Much has been written about the strain placed on the immigration court system by the recent influx of minors from Central America. A little known fact about the Immigration Court system, unlike every court in the land, virtually no immigration court cases are resolved without a hearing.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category