Government Targets Stigma of Mental Illness Among Youngsters

USA Today (December issue) reported that the federal government is launching a $1 million public service campaign aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Millions of US adults go untreated for mental illnesses because they are too ashamed to tell friend and families. In 2005, nearly 25 million people age 18 and older had some type of serious psychological distress leading to psychopathological symptoms. This is about 11.3% of population overall and 18.6% of young adults between 18 an 24, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.  It was calculated that 13.5 million people did not seek treatment. About third of them cited as one of their primary reasons the stigma associated with mental illness.

The money will go to radio and TV ads to encourage young adults to stand by their sick peers. It is known that support of peers plays a significant role in recovery from depression and other mental disorders in children and young adults.

It is a great initiative, but only a small patch of a big whole in mental health services for young people. One does not need to do national surveys to know that the primary reasons why adolescents and young adults do not go for treatment is their inability to pay and the all too often unfriendly attitude of local mental health services.

This government initiative is a first and welcome step in healing the mental health of our young generation.

Ref: USA Today, December 4, 2006