Monday, May 05, 2014


Treat mental health illness, stop the stigma

May is Mental Health Awareness month. Many people feel that mental illness is rare and happens to “someone else,” but the truth of the matter is mental illness is widespread and common.  

It is estimated that 54 million people in the United States suffer from some degree of mental illness.  People commonly struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or other mental illnesses.   The good news is that with treatment and support services, recovery is possible. 

The impact of mental illness on the family can be severe.  Even when family members are accepting and supportive of a loved one with mental illness, they are often reluctant to discuss it with others for fear of negative reactions.  After all, myths and misconception still surround mental illness. For many, even their closest friends may not understand. 

For example, a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and when she told co-workers, they were all supportive and understanding. However, when another friend confided in co-workers that his brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, they said little and implied that something must be very wrong in his family to cause this illness. 

Many of these issues will be discussed at an upcoming mental health community forum, sponsored by Backus and Windham hospitals on Friday, May 16, from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Hartford HealthCare East System Support Office, 11 Stott Ave. in Norwich. The panel forum, Can’t Keep It To Ourselves – A Community Dialogue on Mental Illness will feature acclaimed author and mental health advocate Wally Lamb.  Pre-registration is required by calling 860-892-6900.    

Join us as we take the opportunity to hear stories, ask questions of the experts, and work to combat the stigma associated with mental illness.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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