Stomping Out Stigma

By: Amy Cavalier, Communications/Development Coordinator

May is Mental Health Month and this year’s theme focuses on Life with a Mental Illness. 

DePaul staff and clients participated in several area events aimed at stomping out the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness.

NAMI Rochester Walk

Nearly 50 DePaul staff and residents participated in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Walk in Rochester, New York in early-May. The DePaul Stigma Stompers, including staff and residents from DePaul’s Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA) Apartments, and the DePaul Recreation team, including staff and clients from Administration, Ridgeview Commons and the Carriage Factory Treatment Apartments, Elmgrove and Lyell Road Community Residences, and Cornerstone, Edgerton Square and Parkside Single Room Occupancy Programs, raised about $1,000 in support of people with psychiatric disorders and raised awareness to help change the way Americans view mental illness. NAMIWalks Rochester raised over $200,000 with this year’s walk on May 7!

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Pictured here, NOTA resident Danita F. prepares to throw a pie in Program Director Deb White’s face during a NAMI Walk fundraiser as NOTA Assistant Residential Manager Samantha MacDonald, resident Karen S., Medication Coordinator I Gabe Cordova, Residential Counselor II Ellen Sadler and Residential Manager Chris Nutting cheer her on.

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Pictured here is NOTA’s team at the NAMIWalks Rochester event including (back row, left to right) residents Chris H. and Mary N., Residential Counselor II Ellen Sadler, (middle row) Jessica L. (Carriage Factory), Lisa W. (family member), Residential Counselor II Brianna Festa, Meagan Licata, and Megan Thull, and residents Kerri D., (front row, left to right) Heather M., Debra O., Assistant Residential Manager Samantha McDonald and residents Ed M. and Michael D.

 

Flash Mob Aims to End the Stigma

Staff and clients from Seneca Square and Kensington Square, two DePaul Single Room Occupancy Programs in Buffalo, New York participated in the Restoration Society’s 4th Annual Flash Mob in May. The event aims to increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of mental illness and helps break the stigma surrounding it.

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Pictured here are (front row, left to right) Seneca Square Residential Service Coordinators Michelle Setlock and Emily Rivera, Seneca Square Program Director Heidi Augustyn, (middle row, left to right) Kensington Square resident Carey B., Community Living Supervisor Shirley Barnes., Kensington Square resident Jeff S., Seneca Square resident James C., Kensington Square resident  Analee M., (back row left to right) Kensington Square Assistant Director Robert Potozniak, Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health Michael R. Ranney, and Seneca Square residents Eric F., Dennis D., Donald M. and Clinton H.


If you post about Mental Health Month on social media, use the hashtag #mentalillnessfeelslike on social media during May. Everything will be collected at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/feelslike.

Erasing the Stigma

By: Chris Syracuse, DePaul Executive Director/Vice President 

Major strides have been made in mental health treatment and the stigma surrounding mental illness over the past several decades, but there’s still more ground to cover.

Chris Syracuse
Chris Syracuse

My mother still recalls the time in the mid-1950s when her parents had to call the police on her 18-year-old sister. She remembers the feeling of helplessness as she watched the police handcuff her partially-clothed sister and place her in the police car while the neighbors observed.

Over the last 27 years of working in the mental health field, I have talked to hundreds of family members whose loved ones have been afflicted with mental illness. In the overwhelming number of cases, their stories are eerily similar to my Aunt Elinore’s story and usually go something like this:

“My son (or daughter) had a pretty normal childhood. They were attractive, social;
they did well in school and had many friends until all of a sudden we saw a change.”

Their loved one would start to show this change in their late teens. They would begin to shy away from people, become suspicious of others, stay in their bedroom and in some cases, begin using drugs and/or alcohol.

Parents will often tell me they would make attempts to intervene, but their child would become argumentative or isolate even more. The inevitability of most of these situations resulted in the person being psychiatrically hospitalized for the first time.

Mental illness, family members tell me, is a horrible thing. It strips the person of their personality. The delusions going on in their head or their disorganized thought patterns can dilute their identity. You can’t necessarily “see” mental illness the way you can see cancer or multiple sclerosis, yet the disease can be just as disabling. Many people with a mental illness use alcohol and drugs to “self-medicate,” further complicating matters.

There is hope

Initially, this is a frightening and bleak reality. However, there is some good news and hope. Like many other diseases, doctors believe that early intervention and treatment provides the best opportunity for a positive outcome for individuals living with mental illness. Early intervention means recognizing the symptoms of the disease and getting your child to the doctor as soon as possible. This is not to say that pressing the panic button is the answer. The teenage years are challenging enough but if the person’s unusual behaviors continue over a period of time and they appear to be increasingly isolating, the child should be seen by their doctor.

“A positive outcome” means the lessening or ceasing of symptoms to the extent that the person can lead a normal and productive life. Not too long ago, being diagnosed with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or major depression meant spending many years in a state psychiatric hospital. Thanks to the advancement in anti-psychotic medications, mood stabilizers, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, many or most people can go on to live fulfilling and productive lives. Since there is no cure for mental illness, using medications will most likely continue for the duration of the person’s life.

Although medications are critical to the solution, there are other pieces of the equation that can make the person whole again. These include family supports, peer supports and a good psychiatrist and/or therapist willing to work with the individual and his/her family.

The final component is structure which could mean work, school, volunteer work, attending a social club, or any other activity that is meaningful to that person. All of these elements are critical to a person’s recovery. Recovery, like any other illness, occurs at a different pace for everyone.

Erasing the stigma

Unfortunately, my Aunt Elinore never had the opportunity to “recover” from her mental illness. She ended up dying of lung cancer in the state hospital. Major strides have been made in mental health treatment and the issues surrounding stigma since those days.

Every May, we raise awareness with Mental Health Month, but we should take the opportunity each day to tell the world that hope and recovery are possible for all those who are afflicted with mental illness. We also work to erase the stigma sometimes associated with the disease.

Unfortunately, people still believe schizophrenia means “split personality” or that all mentally ill people are violent. Ironically, some of these same people who once held ill-conceived beliefs approach me years later seeking help for themselves or their loved one. One in four adults in the United States will experience mental illness in a given year. One just never knows.


DePaul is committed to providing quality mental health residential and treatment services. Learn more here. 

What Everyone Ought To Know About Mental Illness

By: Justine Smith, New Media/Web Content Coordinator

May is Mental Health Month, promoting the importance of overall wellness with the theme “Mind Your Health.” The focus, though, remains on mental health.

In our nation, as much as these complex topics are discussed, mental health and mental illness are sometimes truly misunderstood.

This misunderstanding is one of the main reasons stigma can surround mental illness. In honor of Mental Health month, here are some of the best visual representations and quotes about mental health we found. Share yours in the comment section below!

If phyical ailments were treated like mental illness
Source “If physical ailments were treated like mental illness”
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