Minneapolis — NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and HealthPartners are joining together in a campaign to address the stigma of mental illnesses. Through a $100,000 grant from HealthPartners, NAMI Minnesota will launch this community campaign work first with Regions Hospital followed by hospitals throughout the state to change the experience of persons living with mental illnesses.
It will include transforming the hospital environment so that it promotes recovery and hope; encouraging the involvement of family and friends; changing attitudes of staff and family members towards mental illnesses; educating families and friends about mental illnesses; and encouraging empathy including visitors and the giving of cards, flowers or gifts.
The grant will fund a full-time staff person at NAMI to work on the project. The project includes:
- Development of welcome signs and materials that promote recovery
- Social media efforts
- Staff training
- Family education
- A speakers bureau and more to help reduce the stigma of mental illnesses in the hospital setting and the community
- Regions Hospital will host a “NAMI in the Lobby” program where NAMI volunteers are available on-site to assist family and friends.
“The evidence is clear that access to care and support for mental illness is a problem, and that stigma about mental illness is one aspect of the challenge,” said HealthPartners President and CEO Mary Brainerd. “We are improving care and also supporting efforts to reduce stigma about mental illnesses that stand in the way of individuals and families receiving needed care.”
In discussions, interviews and surveys, NAMI Minnesota and HealthPartners found that people living with mental illnesses experienced stigma from the entire community, including their treatment providers. The stigma surrounding mental illnesses does more than lead to discrimination and a loss of dignity and hope. It also leads to people living with symptoms for an average of 10 years before seeking help.
“Changing attitudes and changing lives can only happen if those first experiences that people have with the mental health system are positive” said Sue Abderholden, executive director, NAMI Minnesota. “This means that anyone needing psychiatric hospitalization gets treated in the same manner as they would for any other very serious illness—with respect, dignity and empathy.”
While there have been many anti-stigma campaigns throughout the country, for those whose lives have been impacted by mental illnesses, little has changed. Many people who have been hospitalized for mental illnesses never even received a get-well card, said Abderholden.
HealthPartners is committed to reducing the stigma of mental illnesses. As a leader of the East Metro Mental Health Roundtable, HealthPartners brings together leaders from 25 government, law enforcement and social service agencies, health systems and hospitals as well as others who address mental health care in the East Metro for regular meetings with a goal of accelerating improvements in the mental health of the East Metro community, through partnerships that deliver high quality mental health services.