Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness in Wisconsin

Overall, it is socially acceptable to see a medical professional when you are having a health problem. If you are having chest pains, you see a cardiologist. If you have a broken bone, you get an x-ray. If you need a mole removed, you see a dermatologist.

But if you think you might have a mental illness, do you immediately see a mental health professional?

Many of us would answer no, even though studies show 1 in 5 people in Wisconsin have a mental illness. That is estimate means over 800,000 people in Wisconsin are affected by a mental illness. And because of the nature of mental illness that impact also is felt by their families and friends as well.

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are a medical disorder of the brain and often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible with the correct care, treatment, and support.

We encourage everyone to treat mental illness the same as a physical illness; when you are feeling overly stressed, depressed or hearing voices, seek out help. Tell someone you need help. Find a provider, a support group, and advocate for your needs.

You can help end the stigma by talking about your mental health just like you talk about the flu. Share your experience in a normal fashion of taking care of yourself and showing sympathy for those who are sick.

We hope Mental Illness will join the “casserole list”.  When a friend has surgery, has a bad illness or a diagnosis that will require chronic care, our friends, co-workers, church members bring them a casserole to show love and support. We want people to take a casserole to someone that has been hospitalized, or newly diagnosed with a mental illness too.

It’s time to end the stigma and treat our mental health the same as our physical health.

Helpful Resources:

Text HOPELINE to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255

Wisconsin Warmline: 414-777-4729

Monarch House: 715-505-5641

Solstice House: 608-244-5077

Iris Place: 920-815-3217

Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis, please call 911. If you need to contact your local police department be sure to ask for a CIT or mental health officer.

Mary Kay Battaglia, Executive Director of NAMI Wisconsin, graduated with a BS in Health and Biology from Texas A&M University. She pursued her Master’s in Public Health while working as a research coordinator at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. While at Baylor she did research and coordinated studies including the NIH CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Study) which included a sub study on mental status pre and post-surgery. She also worked as a Clinical Research Associate for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and oversaw many studies in the southwest region of the country. While taking a pause from paid professional work (but worked very hard as a mom of 3) she become engaged in volunteering throughout her community. With family members who live with a serious mental illness and her passion for volunteering, NAMI was a perfect fit to return to paid work. She was the Program Coordinator for NAMI Wisconsin for 3 years and in                                                                  the fall of 2019 was promoted to Executive Director. 

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