WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) introduced bipartisan legislation, as part of his efforts to promote wellness, to designate the first full week of May each year as “National Mental Health No Stigma Week.” As of introduction, 54 Members of Congress have signed on as supporting co-sponsors of the bill, and 34 medical, academic, and professional associations have stated their support.
“Our mental health is often something we take for granted, but millions of our neighbors, friends, family members, and colleagues are working through mental illness issues every day,” Rep. Peters said. “It’s time to work together to end the stigma attached to mental illness and focus in on increasing awareness and prevention. A National Mental Health No Stigma Week would give this effort the recognition it deserves and would save lives.”
Mental illness affects millions of Americans each year, including 20% of teenagers, but stigmas around mental health often prevent treatment – only half of young adults believe that treatment can help return those with a mental illness back to a healthy life. Given that more than 300,000 Americans attempt suicide each year, with fear of stigmatization listed as among the top factors for preventing the mentally ill from seeking help, there is clearly much work to be done toward acknowledging this problem.
Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., American Psychiatric Association, CEO and Medical Director, said the following about the bill: “Because of stigma, only about one third of those who need mental health treatment seek help. Unfortunately, the fear of stigma is based upon unfair discrimination against people with mental illnesses. Stigma leads to broken families and other relationships, loss of employment and even housing discrimination. One of the most important goals of all mental health organizations should be to dispel the unnecessary stigma that so unfairly inhibits people from getting the help they need. All in this country should, if they have a mental health need, be able to get early intervention, treatment and wrap around recovery services – just as they should if they have diabetes, or hypertension, or other physical illnesses. ”
“The stigma surrounding mental health is causing mental illness to go untreated far too often,” said Pamela Greenberg, CEO of the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness. “Mental Health No Stigma Week will help turn whispering about mental illness into productive conversations about mental health. It is important that we work to stamp out the stigma unfairly associated with these illnesses.”
“As the mother of a son with bipolar disorder, a psychiatric nurse, and co-founder of International Bipolar Foundation, I am acutely aware of the damage stigma causes to the millions of people affected with mental illnesses,” said Muffy Walker MSN, MBA; Chairman of the International Bipolar Foundation. “Breaking down this barrier will open the door to understanding mental illnesses for what they are; disorders of the brain – another organ in the body.”
Supporting Organizations: (34)
Alliance for Children and Families, American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP), American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Dance Therapy Association, American Group Psychotherapy Association, American Mental Health Counselors Association, American Orthopsychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association for Behavior Health and Wellness/Stamp Out Stigma, Brandon Marshall Foundation, Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance, International Bipolar Foundation, NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Development Disability Directors, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), National Association of Mental Health Program Directors, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Disability Rights Network, National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, National Association of Mental Health Planning and Advisory Councils, Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing, PUSH America, Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, School Social Work Association of America, State Associations of Addiction Services, School Social Work Association of America, State Associations of Addiction Services, the Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, Treatment Communities of America, World Federation for Mental Health
Original Cosponsors: (54)
Scott Peters, Gary Miller, Barbara Lee, Alcee Hastings, Janice Schakowsky, Tim Ryan, Jim McGovern, Juan Vargas, Dan Benishek, Michael Honda, Judy Chu, G.K. Butterfield, Keith Ellison, Elizabeth Esty, Ann Kirkpatrick, Grace Napolitano, Sam Farr, Bobby Rush, John Lewis, Madeleine Bordallo, Carol Shea-Porter, Ed Perlmutter, Charles Rangel, Susan Davis, Michael Fitzpatrick, Adam Schiff, Jared Huffman, Gregorio Sablan, Betty McCollum, John Yarmuth, David Price, Sander Levin, Alan Lowenthal, David Loebsack, Marcy Kaptur, Ron Barber, Corinne Brown, Donna Christensen, Tony Cardenas, Loretta Sanchez, Jackie Speier, Zoe Lofgren, Ami Bera, Gerald Connolly, Linda Sanchez, John Delaney, John Garamendi, Chaka Fattah, Andre Carson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Rush Holt, Eric Swalwell, Jared Polis, Theodore Deutch