May is Mental Health Awareness Month

This year, Sinnissippi is conducting a campaign to #EndTheStigma

Sinnissippi Centers

DIXON – Sinnissippi Centers, KSB Hospital and the Partnership for a Healthy Lee County work group are conducting an #EndTheStigma campaign during May to help improve awareness of mental health.

May is Mental Health Month, which was created by Mental Health in America in 1949. In the past 75 years, awareness of mental health has improved but more still needs to be done, according to a news release from Sinnissippi Centers.

In the U.S., 1 in 5 adults have a mental illness, yet less than half of them receive the treatment and support they need, Sinnissippi Centers President and CEO Stacie Kemp said. One of the biggest reasons for the delay is stigma, Kemp said.

“Stigma is a powerful negative or discriminatory barrier that can lead people with mental illness to avoid or delay treatment,” Kemp said. “During this Mental Health Month, we are focusing our awareness efforts on reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness and is still a barrier to treatment.”

One of the ways to fight stigma is talking about mental illness and learning more about it.

Mental health issues can range from anxiety to depression to schizophrenia to psychosis, Sinnissippi Centers recovery support specialist James Shover said. The fact is, mental illnesses are chronic diseases of the brain, just like heart disease is part of the cardiovascular system.

“We need to understand that all these are an illness, and no one chooses to feel that way,” said Shover, who has personal experience with mental illness and stigma. “That is the biggest part of the stigma in my opinion. We do not judge someone if they have diabetes or cancer because they are an accepted illness, whereas mental health illnesses are still frowned upon. The irony is that these illnesses, like many others, can be helped with therapy and/or medications.”

Movies and TV shows where people lie on a couch with their head in their hands and blame everything on their parents during a therapy session don’t help lessen the stigma, Shover said. Counseling and therapy sessions are nothing like that, Shover said.

“The easiest way to explain what a regular session is like is sitting in a room on a chair and venting to someone about your problems who will never judge you or, maybe more importantly, never repeat what you have said to anyone else,” Shover said. “That is the part I have always appreciated – the anonymity of therapy. There are also some clinicians who will have your session outside at a picnic table or go on a walk, or even on the telephone – whatever the client is comfortable with.”

Some people also think therapy is for “the weak-minded,” Shover said. It’s a stigma that has been proven false many times over, Shover said, pointing to the therapists who modern NFL, NBA and MLB teams have on staff, some of whom travel with the teams.

“These are people who are at the pinnacle of their jobs and have a very strong mental fortitude to reach that plateau, and sometimes they need help as well,” Shover said. “If million-dollar athletes who are consistently in the public spotlight rely on the help of mental health professionals, why can’t anyone?”

There are resources available to learn more about mental illness, including Sinnissippi Centers’ website, which contains links to the organization’s social media accounts and YouTube channel, where text and video posts about mental illness and other behavioral health topics regularly are made. There also is an extensive links page.

Mental Health in America offers a website with more information about Mental Health Month and mental wellness ( Interested individuals can complete a free, confidential, online screening for themselves or someone they are concerned about.

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