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NAMI Minnesota
1919 University Ave. W., Suite 400
Saint Paul, MN 55104

phone: 651-645-2948
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"Mental illness is a hidden illness; people often see the stigma not the person.  Fighting the stigma makes us stronger."

“Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders - especially severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment (New Freedom Commission, 2003).”

Nine Ways to Fight Stigma

Take the Stigmafree Pledge and Help Raise Awareness

NAMI National
Bring Change 2 Mind
No Kidding! Me Too!
Reporting Fairly on Mental Health

After 25 Years, Has MIAW Made a Difference?

September 30, 2015 - Aitkin Independent Age
by Sue Abderholden, Executive Director, NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

The first full week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). It was established by Congress in 1990, thus we are holding this event for the 25th year from Oct. 4-10. After a quarter-of-a-century of work to raise awareness, educate the public about mental illnesses and promote acceptance of people with mental illnesses, one must ask – has it made a difference?

The answer is yes – although our work is not close to being done. Thanks to MIAW and other awareness campaigns such as Make It OK, Bring Change 2 Mind, and efforts by NAMI through the In Our Own Voice program, public understanding is improving. A Harris Poll conducted in August of 2015 found 89 percent of people responding felt that mental health and physical health are equally important. People certainly know more about mental illnesses and the brain than they did 25 years ago.

One surprising finding is that while the public’s understanding of mental illnesses has increased, attitudes towards people with mental illnesses have not changed enough. Mental illnesses and violence continue to be wrongly linked, which affects a number of things, including people seeking treatment early, the ability to finish school or maintain employment and the willingness of communities to support programs to treat and support both children and adults with mental illnesses.

Public policies, which have a huge impact on peoples’ lives, have changed as well over the past 25 years. Long-term discrimination under Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance meant there was no steady stream of funding to pay for treatment and services. While some refer to “our broken system of care,” the reality is that the system was never built. That same Harris Poll found that many (43 percent) felt mental health care is not affordable and a third felt it is not accessible for most people and people do not know where to find mental health care.

Key legislation has helped with awareness and inclusion, namely the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, and, most recently, the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which guaranteed healthcare coverage through exchanges.

The Minnesota legislature also made significant recent investments in its mental health system in 2013 and 2015, creating a framework and a set of services and supports that will be further developed during the next two years across the state, providing hope for thousands.

Andy Warhol said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” MIAW has made a difference; and the incredible changes that have taken place have been due to the hard work of countless individuals with mental illnesses, their family members and mental health professionals who have joined together to continue to change attitudes and laws not only during MIAW but throughout the year.


Wrong Focus: Mental Health in the Gun Safety Debate - 4-17-13
Study: Mental Illness No Trigger for Violence
The Stigma of Mental Illness
Violent Crime Study: Standing Stigma on its Head
Famous People with Mental Illness
To Fight Stigmas, Start with Treatment - NY Times, May 2009