May 2016 is Mental Health Awareness Month and the theme is Life with a Mental Illness. Much time has passed since the days of the asylums, where people with mental illnesses were locked in for most of their lives. Many purport that prisons are “the new asylums”, housing thousands of people with mental illnesses without adequate resources to treat them. So, the stigma of mental illness persists today both in our prison system and in society at large.
In recent years, much work has been accomplished in raising awareness of mental health issues in this country and around the world. Yet, the perception persists that people with depression, for example, are simply lazy or that people with anxiety need to just calm down or even that people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are mass murderers. The idea that people with serious mental illnesses are violent by nature is a MYTH.
In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.
The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) urges everyone to take the pledge to end the stigma about mental illnesses and become Stigmafree. For more information about this month’s theme and awareness raising campaign, using #mentalillnessfeelslike, see: www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may. For more myth-busting facts about mental health, see: www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/.