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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 21, 2013 at 7:12 PM

Reduce the stigma surrounding mental health

We can create change through education and increased awareness

I want to commend The Seattle Times and columnist Jonathan Martin for a very thoughtful and powerful piece on peer bridgers. The column helped increase the public’s understanding of mental illness and the mental-health system’s shortcomings [“The rare mental-health fixers,” Opinion, Nov. 21].

We need more outpatient mental-health support to assist individuals with transitions and throughout their recovery journey. Peer bridgers provide such support and also reduce demand on an overburdened psychiatric inpatient system that leaves too many people with inadequate and inhumane care.

Approximately half of the U.S. population will have a diagnosable mental illness at some point during its lifetime. Most people will not seek treatment.

Societal stigma about mental illness results in stereotyping, discrimination, oppression and internalized stigma that often leads to unwillingness to seek assistance.

Reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness requires changing societal views through education and increased awareness. When we talk about people by naming their illnesses first, as in “mentally ill person,” we dehumanize the individual and reinforce the stigma.

I hope you will continue to increase the public’s awareness of mental illness. Stories from those in recovery are a powerful way to humanize what many either do not understand or are unwilling to acknowledge.

Jim Leighty, Seattle

Comments | More in Mental illness | Topics: mental health

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