Dr. Angie StebbinsRecently we have seen numerous athletes speak publicly about their struggles with mental health. By bringing the conversation into the mainstream these courageous individuals are helping to break the stigma around depression, anxiety and other illnesses. We recently spoke with Dr. Angie Stebbins, the Market CEO of Behavioral Health Kankakee and Chicago North, about this issue.

Q: Why is there a stigma around mental illness?

A: “Mental illnesses are health conditions that impact a person’s thoughts, emotions and actions. Some may be mild while others can be severe. Oftentimes society labels people with mental illness as erratic and “crazy” because their behavior doesn’t follow the norm. For example, they may be considered dangerous, unpredictable or unable to care for themselves. Unfortunately these negative stereotypes can create an “us” versus “them” distinction.”

Q: How does the stigma affect people with mental illness?

A: “Unlike other health conditions, people living with mental illness often suffer in silence. They may be embarrassed, afraid or feel shame. They can be hesitant to seek professional help or share their situation with friends, family or co-workers for fear of being discriminated.

One of the best ways to combat shame is to talk about these issues with people you trust. Mental health is just as important as physical health. The more we talk about our own experiences the more we can reduce the shame for others.”

Q: Mental illness has been a taboo subject. What can we do to change this?

A: “Learn as much as you can about mental health issues so you can better understand what it means to live with these conditions. This means seeing the person first and don’t label them by their mental illness. Also, be a good listener and ask what you can do to help. Through education and understanding we can help eliminate the stigma around mental illness.”

Read Part 2

By Dr. Angie Stebbins