National Alliance on Mental Illness Marin
Isn’t it time you stepped up to bat for NAMI Marin?
Author event highlights stigma of mental illness
Current volunteer openings are: ....Corporate Treasurer: Manage the financial operations of the or- ganization and serve on the Board of Directors. Current treasurer will assist in the transition. ....Office Manager: Schedule and oversee a staff of volunteers at spar- kling new offices across from Northgate mall.
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stigma of mental illness had torn apart their family relationships, and at that point the sons had wanted nothing to do with their mothers. The dinner was so successful that the young men invited the moms for a movie and ice cream that same eve- ning. The mothers wanted to continue the dinners and thought a monthly event for family members and clients could also help many other families rebuild relationships. They made phone calls, put up monthly fliers, and began holding Famfests at vari- ous local restaurants.
Over time the events have grown so that not only clients and their fam- ily members are coming for dinner but also clients that don't have family in the area. Some clients have started to reach out to their families after a long time of silence. Other clients that don't have family are reaching out to form new families. Kay Black- will now keeps the monthly dinners running smoothly. They’re inexpen- sive, and in light of all the cuts in services in our community, one gets so much more than a dinner. Look for Famfest notices in this newsletter, and join in the festivities. Everyone is welcome!
On April 22, at Book Passage in Corte Madera, Dr. Stephen Hin- shaw, Chair of the Psychology De- partment at University of California, Berkeley, spoke of his new book The Mark of Shame: Stigma of Mental Illness and an Agenda for Change.
Dr. Hinshaw began by recalling his childhood confusion when his father would mysteriously disappear for months at a time. After decades of silence, and against the advice of professionals, the father finally spoke to his son about his illness. The stigma of mental illness dis- tinctly shaped Dr. Hinshaw’s child- hood and his chosen career.
Briefly recapping history over the centuries, Dr. Hinshaw noted the overriding tendency to demonize mental illness. He read several pas- sages from his book, including one pertaining to Hippocrates and men- tal disturbances. Hippocrates took a medical approach and recommended abstinence from sex and alcohol. As the center of western civilization moved from Athens to Alexandria, punishment was introduced as a regular treatment. Emotional distur- bances were also countered with music and relaxation. Both types of treatment were meant to “distract the demons.”
In 18th century England, the world’s first psychiatric hospital, popularly known as Bedlam, at- tracted thousands of visitors who entertained themselves by provok- ing the inmates and laughing at their anguished behavior. Even King Charles VI of France, (Charles the Fou,) was subjected to torture in order to cure his mental illness. In the past, the cause of mental illness was considered to be a lack of moral will.
Dr. Hinshaw spoke about how stigma is deeply engrained in the language we use. As young children when we are angry with one an- other, we call each other “crazy” and “looney.” When Kay Jamison, a professor of psychiatry and a fore- most expert on bipolar disorder, disclosed that she herself suffered from the illness, she was shunned by the medical profession for revealing her condition
Treatment for mental illness still remains way below parity with other illnesses. Hinshaw cited that al- though 5 to 6 per cent of the popula- tion suffers from severe mental ill- ness, the mean length of time to obtain care is 10 years. Stigma still reigns in the workplace. Hinshaw suggested thinking very carefully before revealing your mental illness at work. As a result of the American Disability Act ramps are required for people in wheelchairs. Why not similar types of workplace accom- modations for the mentally ill.?
What can be done to fight stigma? We need to break down the fear, starting with mental health profes- sionals who treat their patients as “the other.” Positive media coverage is essential. The media depicts those with mental illness as dangerous and violent. Just a few celebrities are willing to speak out. Coverage is needed showing not heroes, not de- mons, but the normality of everyday people who live with mental illness.
NAMI Marin had a table at the well-attended presentation where brochures and newsletters were dis- tributed to the attendees. Look for a review of Dr. Hinshaw’s book in an upcoming issue of this newsletter.
Viviane Ghammache and Marilyn Geary