Past Releases: National Council Hosts Congressional Briefing on Stigma of Mental Illness among Public and Veterans
Contact: Communications@thenationalcouncil.org or 301-984-6200, ext. 228.
Washington, DC (May 28, 2008)—The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare hosted a Congressional briefing last week on the high cost of stigma surrounding mental illness among returning veterans and others with serious mental disorders treated in the public mental health system. The briefing highlighted the critical need to encourage people with mental illness to seek treatment.
The briefing, held on May 22, was sponsored by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Representative Jim Ramstad (D-Minn).
During the briefing, Representative Ramstad lamented the high cost—in human, social, and economic terms—that the social stigma associated with mental illness exacts. He vowed to keep up the fight for parity, for which he has been an ardent champion in Congress, and to support final passage of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act. He commended the work of the National Council in working to strengthen the nation’s mental health system.
Linda Rosenberg, MSW, National Council President and CEO, who moderated the briefing, pointed out that while most people would not hesitate to seek treatment for a physical illness, many remain paralyzed when it comes to seeking support for a mental illness. For example, while as many as one in five of the 1.6 million returning veterans will experience a mental disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 70 percent will not seek help from either the Department of Defense or the Veterans Administration.
Emmy award-winning actor Joe Pantoliano, best known for his portrayal of the eccentric mobster Ralph Cifaretto in HBO’s landmark series “The Sopranos,” spoke at the briefing, explaining his own struggle with depression and the challenges of speaking out about it for fear of stigma. Inspired by his role in the film Canvas—the story of one family’s challenges with mental illness—Pantoliano recently started his own nonprofit organization, “No Kidding, Me Too!,” which is dedicated to ending the stigma associated with mental illness. Academy award winning Actress Marcia Gay Harden joined Joe Pantoliano in the call to end stigma and introduce parity in coverage of mental illness.
Dr. Joseph Parks, Medical Director, Missouri Department of Mental Health, who was one of the panelists at the briefing pointed out stigma inhibits health-seeking behavior, which results in people with mental illness dying, on average, 25 years earlier than their counterparts without mental illness.
Master Sergeant Joe Santiago, Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, recounted his experiences with traumatic brain injury and the challenges in getting the right diagnosis and treatment. Jordan Burnham, a senior high school student at Upper Merion High School in King of Prussia, PA, also spoke at the briefing and emphasized the importance of support from family in recovering from his depression that resulted in a suicide attempt.
A. Kathryn Power, Director, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, provided an overview of SAMHSA’s ongoing initiatives to fight the stigma associated with mental illness.
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) association representing 1,300 mental health and addictions treatment and rehabilitation organizations that serve nearly six million adults, children, and families in communities across America.