Continuing the Fight to End Stigma

Wow! Our new season of Inspire! is off to an incredible start,
primarily due to the openness and vulnerability of people willing to
share their own struggles with the stigma of mental illness.

It was far too easy to generate a list of the misperceptions about
mental illness that lead to stigma. Too easy to generate a list of how
we see stigma played out in the community.

But, it was also easy to gather energy and motivation to end stigma!
There is something every one of us can do!

On a big scale, we can work to change systems through grassroots
organizing, political involvement and lobbying efforts. To that end,
we are wondering if there are people interested in forming a NAMI
Affiliate in Ottawa County.

NAMI, the National Alliance On Mental
Illness, is a nationwide grassroots advocacy group, representing
people affected by mental illness in the United States. NAMI provides
education and advocacy by shaping public policy for those suffering
the effects of mental illness.  If you are interested in helping
explore the potential of creating a new NAMI affiliate, email

Of course, all big scale change begins with us as individuals. We can
all work to end stigma. Some of the ways you can do that are to:
*Become informed then share your knowledge with others.

*Vote for and support politicians who support mental health and who
will help end mental health disparity in our state and our country.

*Make mental health part of your well being. Whether its meditation,
music, or medication, when you talk to others about your health
include your mental health as an integral part of your well-being.

*Cultivate compassion. Listen to others and try to create space in
your world for their reality.

*Reject the idea of "normal" and the idea that you or anyone else has
to fit it. Recognize that we are all wired differently and we all have
different ways of reacting to stress and life circumstances.

*Be mindful of the language you use. People have mental illness, they
are not their diagnosis. And please don't call people crazy, nuts or
other pejorative terms.

*Speak up to stigma, be a voice for the voiceless. Politely educate
and inform others when they say things that are untrue or hurtful.

*Share your own story with others. Sharing your story does two things.
It releases the power of stigma to control you, and with it the often
accompanying emotions of guilt and shame. And it tells the person you
are talking to that they are not alone and that they have a safe place
to share their own story.

*Become an advocate. People with mental illness often have no
advocates. So they need us. They need us to speak up, to vote and to
be part of the change.