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Join Our Conversation on World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, 2013

I blog for World Mental Health Day

On World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, we here at The Carter Center will pause to reflect upon the many advances in the field of mental health, including improvements in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, as well as advancing parity for mental health in our health care system. Despite this progress, however, myths and misperceptions about these disorders persist, which can lead to social stigma and discrimination.

“Unfortunately, there just isn’t a lot of education out there about mental illnesses, what causes these disorders, and how they can be treated. As a result, many people who suffer from mental illnesses are afraid that if they seek medical help, they will be ostracized by their communities,” says Rebecca Palpant Shimkets, assistant director of the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program.

“In addition, stigma and misinformation breed the more serious problem of people facing discrimination when seeking jobs, housing, or transportation,” Shimkets says. “On a larger scale, public funding, services, and supports often are considerably less available or robust than other kinds of medical care, even though mental illnesses affect one in four Americans each year.”

Rebecca Palpant Shimkets, assistant director of the Mental Health Program, speaking at a symposium.

Rebecca Palpant Shimkets, assistant director of the Mental Health Program, speaking at a symposium.

Research shows that one of the best ways to fight stigma and discrimination is to have communities meet and talk about these issues. For this reason, we invite you to join our conversation in the comments section below.

  • What do you think can be done in your community to help reduce myths and misperceptions about mental illnesses?
  • Why do you think raising awareness about mental health is important?
  • How has the Carter Center’s work fighting stigma and discrimination against mental illness been important to you?

Learn more about the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program.

Read the complete Q&A with Rebecca Palpant Shimkets.

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29 Comments

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  • 1

    World Mental Health Day Blog Party, October 10, 2013 | World Mental Health Day on October 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    […] Join Our Conversation on World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, 2013 The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program […]

  • 2

    Gabriel Lungu on October 10, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Indeed there is need to fight stigma and discrimination against the mentally ill but this hasn’t been easy. Am a psychiatric nurse and i have dedicated time interest in making the community be aware of mental health/illness issues. They problem I have noticed is that there is little or no government support in mental health sector. Also the limited Media access and coverage on mental health issues. In addition to that NGO have channelled their interest and investiment in other general health matter neglecting mental health which is even more disabling. I believe media coverage and adequate resource allocation can help.

  • 3

    Barbara on October 10, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I believe that my community could help reduce myths and misperceptions about mental illness by following the lead of the Carter Center. The Center has made a place for sharing information and real knowledge about mental health giving it value – lifting it up for appreciation as a part of human existence not to be shunted. I am not sure that communities don’t address mental health as much as they do not know HOW to address it in the public forum. These conversations and activities at the Carter Center can act as models for communities with far more limited resources. I am grateful for the leadership and advocacy the Center has demonstrated.

  • 4

    Jim La Rochelle on October 10, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Coincidentally, our support group which is affiliated with the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is meeting this evening. It is one of many throughout the U.S. that provides the opportunity for people diagnosed with depression, bipolar illness, and other mood disorders, as well as those in supportive roles, and those wishing to find out more about these illnesses to come together and learn from each other. We normally meet on another evening of each month but rescheduled our meeting date so that members of our group could attend a local talk by Dr. Kay Redfield- Jamison. She is probably the foremost authority on bipolar illness, having lived with the illness most of her life and being involved with mood disorders research at UCLA and in her current chairmanship at Johns Hopkins University.

    In addition to DBSA’s network of support groups, the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) also provides support groups and presents educational programs to the general public.

    Both of these organizations and their support group members are working to overcome and reduce the stigma so often attached to mental health illnesses.

  • 5

    C.Kay Best on October 10, 2013 at 9:59 am

    The ‘myth of mental health’ is still potent in our country. The drastic funding cuts to community mental health centers has limited the mental health care available. Especially in the rural communities, access to mental health professionals is often v. limited. Families need to drive over 75-100 miles to access a child psychiatrist for their child’s needs. Inpatient hospitalization for suicide/homicide ideation is often v. limited due to lack of access to facilities and the state Medicaid system denying care to suicidal/severely mentally ill youth. Schools still minimize mental health issues with children and often label children with ‘behavior disorders,’while disregarding the mental health issues impacting the child; counseling availability in the schools is often at a minimum when school access to mental health treatment can be the first step for a family to seek help for their child (or even for an adult family member.) Denying the impact of mental health issues on families and communities continues. Only when there is a mass murder does mental health re-emerge as a social/national issue to address. A bit of time passes, and mental health again takes a back seat on political discussions and funding…until another mass murder occurs at the hands of a mentally ill person who had gone ‘untreated,’ left treatment, or never received proper mental health care.

  • 6

    Khawla on October 10, 2013 at 10:05 am

    As knowledge is power , a proper campaign about mental illness awareness is a good move to spread such knowledge between people , for those who have it will understand that its ok and they can get treatment , and for those who fear such illness will understand how to deal with it and that its normal and could be treated.

    furthermore , as healthy minds in healthy bodies , a community with people who mental healthy function to achieve its goals , although we cant prevent all mental illness but it doesn’t mean that it cant be healed .

    Carter Center’s had open my eyes to the importance of such subject , we go so busy with our life that we our self under the stress of daily life may harm our self mentally, of such awareness and care form CC has a big impact on us and on other.

  • 7

    J. R. dick Tyson on October 10, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Nothing affects the body and mind more than the chemicals we have created and used in warfare. Our own government has lied to its own troops and citizens about this issue since World War One.
    May God bless the Carter family for their honorable service to our nation. I pray the Carter Center would highlight this problem. J. R. Tyson

  • 8

    Ru Crowder on October 10, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Mental health is a question of perspective. Those we deem mentally ill who are non violent are generally gifted in areas not understood by the neurotypical world. They tend to be like canary’s in coal mines and are very sensitive to the world around them therefore unable to cope with neurotypicals who tend to be self serving and violent. Simply put they are closer to heaven that is why they give all their worldly goods away when they are so called manic or feel suicidal when they are so called depressed. They do not cope well with people throwing bombs at each other, don’t do well with shouting and screaming and get very sad when the people of the world act greedily or violently toward one another. This causes despair and suicidal ideation. They get overstimulated in large crowds, tend to be psychic, some can predict the future and feel alienated when they try to tell people what will happen or how they could fix things and are too far ahead of the rest to be understood. Some become so angry and frustrated by being marginalized by neurotypicals for this reason that they become violent themselves and lose all empathy: the sociopaths. But when you live in a sociopathic world with sociopathic leaders who kill others in wars instead of choosing to dialogue, when our ceo’s only think of their own family’s needs and are prepared to let everyone else suffer to satisfy their egoic dreams of world domination what is a senstive being to do but either turn inwardly and seek escape in the internal mind or act out aggression against the oppressive system these people have constructed for them? The most mentally ill are the world leaders and ceo’s who take no care of the environment in their need to be rich and powerful and when sensitive types protest this they lock them up in mental institutions, or kill them or put them in prison to shut them up so they won’t ” infect other people” with their “crazy” ideas

  • 9

    Nathalie Ejiogu Smart on October 10, 2013 at 11:34 am

    It’s a shame that the stigma against the mentally ill continue to persist, even with the informative, educational materials that is constantly published for the public’s benefit, in-order to enlighten them on what mental illness is. If the United States, which contains a higher level of educated individuals, enormous resources, and wealth, cannot seem to invest more into treating the mentally ill, and eradicating the stigmas attached to this population, what hope is there for third world countries like Liberia? I did some pro-bono work in Mental Health at Grant Hospital in Monrovia,Liberia. Thanks to the efforts of the Carter Foundation, the work of Dr. Janice Cooper, Dr. Benjamin Harris, Bakon Dwah, Mamuyah Cooper, and others, this facility is continuing to care for the mentally ill and chronic substance abuse users. Often times, these individuals have to dedicate long hours of service to their patients, without access to adequate psychotropic medications, needed supplies, and medical equipments to effectively care for their patients. The Liberian Government, for the first time, is slowly allocating funding to mental health,but not nearly enough of what’s needed to make significant headway in this arena. We hope that more governments will realize the importance of promoting the mental health of their citizens; that more professionals will join in this worthwhile cause of treating the mentally ill and helping them to live a meaningful and dignified life. Once this move is adopted, only then will global economies begin to realize the full potential of their citizens.

  • 10

    Susan B. on October 10, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I believe that if the media, and the film industry made films that depicted people with mental illnesses functioning in a positive manner, instead of the usual deranged depiction, it could serve to educate and move this process forward. There are instances of Ted Bundy’s and severe cases, but it is a matter of degree. In most cases the whole individual is overlooked instead of utilizing their strengths. The idea that no one knows for sure, where a person is psychologically, leads to the mentally ill being abandoned. People don’t want to deal with it. Who is going to hire an unstable person. There has to be a constructive way of blending people into the culture. All people need a way to have their basic needs met, food, shelter, and a livable wage. I know there are a lot of creative people in the world that can take up the challenge.

  • 11

    manzar alam on October 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    The sorry plight of mentally ill people is self reflecting in poor countries of the world.There are many a mentally sick people found in very bad shape on the city roads.A mentally sick person turns a social burden for a middle and lower sections of society especially in third world countries.
    There is Little Govt: as well as private sector Support for mentally sick people in this part of the world.People have little awareness of a mentally sick person and hence people respond offensively to such patients.Most often these problems are attributed to supra natural creatures like genie etc.People with schizophrenia are especially treated very badly and even educated folks attribute such an illness to supra natural beings.
    I think media in collaboration with mental health experts as well as under the umbrella of Govt: can play a major role in this regard.

  • 12

    Panke Miller on October 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Roslynn Carter has been a major inspiration because she embraced the mental health cause early and has remained a staunch supporter all these years, lending her stature to a movement that is important on so many levels. My family has first- hand experience with mental illness among some of our beloved relatives and we have been fortunate to access excellent support services. Too many Americans lack access to these and we are committed to helping raise awareness/expansion of community based services for those afflicted with mental illness. We view this expansion of services as a national priority, which happens to be extremely cost effective as well. Panke Miller

  • 13

    Clara Lantz on October 10, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I did not know that there was a World Mental Health Day, so I very much appreciate The Carter Center’s publicizing it. As someone who has personal experience with this problem, I couldn’t agree more that we must fight the stigma and educate people about mental health.

  • 14

    Allan Mofya Tamba on October 10, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I feel that all the wars that have been, that are and that will ever be; are as a result of mental illness. I believe that all of us citizens of this beautiful planet are both perpetrators and victims of mental illness. Mental illness affects us all, it affects us by the things we say and by the things we don’t say, by the things we do and by the things we don’t do. While our life’s paths are divergent, the processes involved are interdependent; hence the need to put our hands together in addressing mental illness.

  • 15

    Kenny Osorio on October 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Educating people with a mental illness and giving them support works well. Learning to do new things at ones level is good. Having support in the community is a great factor for success in the community. That is why having the chance to educate those who have an interest to listen is a good opportunity.

  • 16

    YEMISI Sanusi on October 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I wish to congratulate Former USA President Jimmy Carter and Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter for their immense support and great passion or Mental Health Matters all over the World. As a former Vice President of the World Federation for Mental Health (African Region)I feel very proud to witness another WMHD. I remember with pride the visionary and passionate members of the World Federation for Mental Health who worked so hard to set into motion the World Mental Health Day about two decades ago. My special tribute to Late Richard Hunter, Prof Eugene Brody and his beloved Wife , Edith Morgan , Isaac Mwendapole , Beverly Long and others who made self less sacrifices from many countries in the World. The stigma still remain a source o concern worse in developing countries of Africa , Asia where political commitment and resources are scanty with no proper legislation to protect mentally from abuse. Despite the fact that Global concern on HIV/ AlDS came much after Mental Health ,today there is less stigma and fear associated to AIDS when compared with Mental Illness still shrouded in mysteries in many cultures….often described and perceived as super natural evil forces magic, evil possession.Globally ,mental health stigma reduction can be achieved by putting more resources into public education and awareness,prevention ,promotion,media enlightenment , and campaign against causative factors like Alcohol and drug Abuse, poor parenting ,poverty,homelessness ,family breakdown etc. ln developing countries there are millions of untreated mentally ill persons who simply seek support from Faith Organisations especially Pentecostal Churches and Mosques that are now springing up every where. Most patients are unemployed so they can not afford the high costs of medication and consultation not to think of admission. The hope lies in prevention of factors that can lead to mental illness. God bless

  • 17

    Alice Shapiro on October 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    In reply to Susan’s post, quoted below, I have done that. I wrote a musical called WHAT’S UPSTAIRS? about a woman with schizophrenia but the story is much more than that and it is not a depressing or violent story. And yet when I pitched it to 3 film execs. they couldn’t change their view about what they think a musical “should be” and how depicting mental illness truthfully and in a fun, uplifting manner could be possible. So, I’ll keep making efforts to get the show mounted.

    The government will most likely not make changes until the people demand change. The people won’t want to rise up until they feel safe. Simply telling people facts does little to cause change. Advertising uses emotion to get people to buy. The entertainment industry is the right place to begin change by stirring hearts as well as minds.

    “Susan B. on October 10, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I believe that if the media, and the film industry made films that depicted people with mental illnesses functioning in a positive manner, instead of the usual deranged depiction, it could serve to educate and move this process forward. There are instances of Ted Bundy’s and severe cases, but it is a matter of degree. In most cases the whole individual is overlooked instead of utilizing their strengths. The idea that no one knows for sure, where a person is psychologically, leads to the mentally ill being abandoned. People don’t want to deal with it. Who is going to hire an unstable person. There has to be a constructive way of blending people into the culture. All people need a way to have their basic needs met, food, shelter, and a livable wage. I know there are a lot of creative people in the world that can take up the challenge.”

  • 18

    Christine Walker on October 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    What an incredible legacy Mrs. Carter has created to enhance to quality of life for those living with mental illness. I’m humbled to play even a small role in these efforts in my community and within my family.
    In light of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I grow increasingly committed to doing for mental health what has been done for cancer.
    Prior to the Carters coming to the White House, the nation learned about Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller’s respective mastectomies. After that, the road to busting stigma, social acceptance and diagnosis and treatment research was well underway.
    Today we see pink everywhere we go, t-shirts with “Survivor” written across the top, walkathons, ribbons, corporate tie ins and all kinds of public displays of breast cancer support.
    I ask, respectfully, when we will have that for those living with depression, PTSD, schizophrenia and the many other brain disorders that 25% of the nation’s population will live with in their life time?
    Thank you, Mrs. Carter, for your incomparable leadership in this area. Your efforts serve as an example of what is possible when political will meets public demand.

  • 19

    Paul Whiting on October 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Q. What do you think can be done in your community to help reduce myths and misperceptions about mental illnesses?

    A. I truly feel that talking totally openly about mental illness, as being one of the many issues of life that can affect all of us, can help to reduce myths and stigma literally everywhere!

    Q. Why do you think raising awareness about mental health is important?

    A. Taking care of your mental health needs to be perceived as being socially acceptable, just like taking care of your physical health is considered socially acceptable!

    Q. How has the Carter Center’s work fighting stigma and discrimination against mental illness been important to you?

    A. The Carter Center’s work truly embodies the eternal principle of “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done Unto You!”

  • 20

    Jason Schager on October 10, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    With the government shutdown and the gridlock of the United States Congress it is important to bring attention to mental health issues because they be the first to get looked at to be budget cut.

    With all the gun volience in recent years and people gulity of commiting these acts mostly mentally ill. They are giving everybody with mental illness a bad name because this increases the typical sterotypes and prejudices that people have heard in the past. People hear and see the news and this reinforces past myths that this day was started to debunk.

  • 21

    Claudine Grange on October 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Education is key to mental illness. It should begin in elementary school. This would prevent stigma from others and those suffering so they will seek help. Mental illness is a brain illness and should be treated like any other illness. It should be treated in primary care with people specialized in mental health not in separate facilities. In one hospital not in separate hospitals. A broken brain is just like a broken bone it needs to mend and can with proper support. I am a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and I know. I also have mental illness in my family and have lived through the lack of good care for my family member.
    Raising awareness about mental illness allows those with illness to seek treatment and those who are near to be supportive instead of running away in fear.
    Rosalyn Carter has done so much to raise awareness and I am forever grateful to her. She was the reason mental illness began to be covered equally by insurance companies. I love her for this. She continues to fight stigma and educate the public about the needs of the mentally ill.
    Let’s keep teaching the truth about this illness so that fear will be replaced by compassion and love.

  • 22

    Kristen on October 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I strongly agree with the previous blogs: people with mental illness have the right to be treated with compassion and love. With other illnesses, there is no arguing that. I believe that communities of faith and workplaces of faith need to to put awareness of mental illnesses, that they can occur like any other illness to anyone at any time. People who have major depression or anxiety shoud not hesitate to request prayer or support because of this. I speak from personal experience when a former Christian supervisor would constantly criticize me when I displayed my physical and emotional symptoms. (depression/anxiety). However, she would initiate staff prayer for other employee’s health issues. Hey, like any other illness, you have good days and bad days. Despite this, I feel I was a very good employee. I love Mrs. Carter dearly because I know she would not hold this illness against me and accept me unconditionally.

  • 23

    Williams Eigege on October 11, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I believe we can learn from the progress in breaking the grip of stigma with the HIV/AIDS disease. The same approach of sensitization can be adapted this mental case. But to be realistic, while patients with HIV/AIDS can still coordinate themselves and be fully part of the social world as long as they are being managed well, a mentally ill person can hardly associate with the public without being noticed especially the ones already violent. The bottom line to me is that we create more awareness and take Love as the prime reason for associating with people.

  • 24

    Rachel Shannon on October 11, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    I just want to give an example of people with mental health being treated unfairly. That person is me. I have depression and social phobia, sometimes agoraphobia. I was self employed during my twenty-five year marriage and was covered by my ex-husband’s insurance. For the first six months after the divorce I was potentially covered by Cobra. Everything was fine until I was two days late paying my monthly premium. I was sick, depressed, laying in bed and doing my best to function. Not on top of things like paying the bills on time. Plus, the papers they were mailing got me confused and the person I called got me more confused. Doubletalk. The Cobra people have no mercy. So, I searched for private insurance and guess what? If you take antidepressant meds you are “uninsurable”. No kidding. Isn’t that depressing? So, eventually, after jumping through many hoops, I ended up being covered by HIRSCH, Health Insurance Risk Sharing Plan. That will be terminated at the end of this year. What now….does anybody know?

  • 25

    o on October 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Comments #6,7,& 14 get to the heart of the matter.
    Until Our daily decisions, Our BEHAVIOR in the market place reflect with certainty Our Core Value… No one forces us to watch a horror film. NO one hand cuffs our wallet to ingesting non-life giving substances; No one forces you to avoid reality; NO Body NEEDS a nuke plant to make breakfast. No one requires you to make garbage. NO one mandates you purchase false goods or perpetrate violation of thy self or thy fellow mans’ dignity. There are many who wake up to find them-self realizing this contrarily-dominant occurrence there-of; there are those who will continue to grow out of that which they did not create.
    FREEDOM:
    Often this means conscience together with will to persevere in a world wrought of mental illness. In the mean-while, it is those of us blessed with mental health Whom share the burden.
    How many Clubs, Associations, Boards, Commissions, Churches….
    Yet their local media advertises while many a so-called ‘business’ promotes degradation of people; put out examples of impoverished behavior – with no counter-point to guide unsuspecting Hungry minds, Nor shield innocent babies.

    Yet When is the last time any of these stood up to say not in our store, not in our town, not in this ball game? Or changed their own doings’ to situate with more health behavior?
    Together with Folks such as The Carters, may we find Unity in Collaboration – Strength in purposed action, Results in Decisive Daily Living.

  • 26

    Curtis Holley on October 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    As a person on Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for a mental disorder I have found that the all persons with mental disabilites and unable to work are forced to live around, access food pantries and soup kitchens ect. with active drug addicts and alcholics.

    I have also discovered that when you attempt to access social services in Maryland that paid social workers assume that you are an active drug addict / alcholic attempting to access housing and social services.

    This is ignorance/sterotyping that should not be accecpted.

    Educating the social workers in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other state/county social workers and providers would be a great start.

    How can I escape being forced to spend vast amounts of time around active drug addicts and alcholics in order to have housing and access to food as a disabled person ?

  • 27

    Rachel Shannon on October 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Curtis, I saw this happen to my brother. He was automatically assumed to be some kind of terrible and stupid and worthless person. Medical people especially would put him this category. It broke my heart because they didn’t see that he was probably way more “intelligent” than they were, very sweet, sensitive, kind, musically talented and beautiful inside and out. I know it hurt him when he was talked down to, which was always. He didn’t ask for mental illness. Nobody does. He killed himself ten years ago.

  • 28

    Curtis Holley on October 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    That is correct. This problem even expands across to ALL types of disabled people who are barely surviving on a disability paycheck.

    Many disabled, in order to survive, many of us are forced into being around and being ABUSED by active drug addicts, drug dealers, sex offenders, active alcholics, ect. in order to access food, housing, ect.

    This is not only unhumane and unethical but also immoral.

    Mental Health Doctors, social workers and case managers are aware of this and allow it to go on!

    And then if I get angry or upset about the abuse them I am the one having a mental crises!

  • 29

    Rachel Shannon on October 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    His story and yours are not exactly the same, but the common theme is that you are being stereotyped, which has got to be frustrating and even enraging.

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