Letter: Time to end stigma of mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care.

Mental illness is a medical condition, often surrounded by stigma that prevents people from getting help. One in five experiences a mental illness with half beginning by the age of 14. Early identification and treatment is important.

The consequences of unidentified and untreated mental health issues can cause harm, including dropping out of school, increased risk of chronic medical conditions, increased risk of substance abuse and risk of self-harm and suicide. A small percentage may harm someone else, even though the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. Through education and awareness, we will be able to reduce stigma around mental health issues, ensuring people are not afraid to seek help.

It has been my privilege to have served as president of the Tanager Place Board of Directors. Tanager Place helps more than 3,000 children and their families who are challenged by mental health issues. Tanager Place is equipped to provide a continuum of service that impacts a child’s future with opportunities for healing. Their program philosophy offers prevention, early identification, intervention with evidence-based practices, access to integrated care and treatment. The Tanager Place Research Center offers active research that impacts policy and best practice.

We have a responsibility to note this critical need. You can be the difference for someone experiencing a mental health challenge. You can help break the stigma.

Susie Streit

Cedar Rapids

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