It’s Not Stigma, It’s Indifference

Posted by asiadmin - April 29th, 2016

shiny-brain-1150907Remember the age-old saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing?” Doing nothing is indifference. Instead we must create a culture that cares. NAMI must lead the campaign against “doing nothing” and against indifference. We do this every time we speak about NAMI in places that have never heard what NAMI has to share. We are advocates for change, and against indifference, with every conversation we open, every meeting we attend, every class or presentation we offer, every time we declare our why to the world: why we exist, why we care, why we work tirelessly to make a difference in mental health. Our words matter, because—in reality—our why is everybody’s why.

I want us to work together toward growing a vibrant, articulate, broad-based constituency, the kind that ensures forward-thinking public policy, responsible public funding, and meaningful private philanthropy. Together we can push for robust medical research, important legislation, high visibility, and community commitment for change. We can be the leaders of those who stand to declare that addressing mental health and mental illness is truly the cause whose time has come.

NAMI’s voice matters to businesses and corporate America because mental illness each year costs more than $200 billion in lost productivity alone: days, weeks, months lost to mental illness— including the necessity for family caregiving. NAMI’s voice matters to schools and to the entire education enterprise. NAMI advocates for early observation, intervention, and treatment, especially since children with early onset have a 50 percent dropout rate, the highest of any disability group. NAMI’s voice matters to providers, at every level, because only through the voice, the face, and the credibility of lived experience can we hope to lift shame, fear, and isolation on one side and to promote treatment alliances on the other.

So what about stigma? The battle of stigma is not a battle we can win. Stigma is a bully, a nameless, faceless bully. It hides in dark places and strikes anytime, any way it wants, in a million disguises. Indifference is the real enemy that we can take down. Once we turn around indifference, we can end discrimination against mental illness. Even more importantly, we can end discrimination so often leveled against the people who endure these challenging issues. We know without a doubt that early identification, effective treatment, compassionate care and access to services can address these illnesses. To open these doors, we must turn our social and cultural indifferences and discrimination into new resolve: the same resolve and commitment that have changed the face of treatment, advanced research, and accelerated recovery possibilities in the case of cancer, diabetes and heart conditions.

NAMI must capture broad awareness and brand recognition on par with the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association. It’s NAMI’s time to claim its own spotlight as the leader in addressing the last (often forgotten and invisible) of these Big Four health issues. We must stand together, side by side, to promote research, prevention, education, treatment, and wellness for all our citizens. Our culture will be judged not merely by its will and capacity to address the obvious health and wellness issues, but by its humanity and civility in addressing mental illnesses and the toll these illnesses take in our lives, our families, our workplaces, and our communities.

Adrienne Kennedy, board of directors, NAMI

National trainer for NAMI Basics

State trainer for NAMI Signature Programs: Family-to-Family, Family Support Group, Parents and Teachers as Allies

(Honored as the recipient of NAMI’s 2013 Education Leadership Award)

Under Adrienne’s leadership as affiliate president (2011-2013), NAMI Austin was honored with NAMI’s 2013 Affiliate of the Year Award.

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