Let’s Stamp Out Stigma
By Terri L. Rhodes, CLMS, CCMP, CPDM, MBA
The national conversation about U.S. healthcare reform has touched on many important topics: more coverage and better insurance, new ways of providing care, cost containment, and prevention.
However, in the last several years, our attention has turned to mental health in a more critical way. Healthcare professionals, policymakers, and employers are trying to move beyond old stereotypes and are taking overdue steps to address this pervasive and debilitating illness. Yet, we still have a long way to go.
At the top of the list, we need to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. Mental illness is often treated the way cancer was 50 years ago — in whispers and rumors. Or it’s demonized as the cause of crime and violence. DMEC surveys indicate the level of workplace mental health stigma is resistant to change. This is not the progress we need.
Mental illness is like any other illness. While laws affecting health insurance require parity for mental health benefits, more than 50% of individuals with mental illness still avoid needed treatment. Untreated mental illness can result in other illnesses and behaviors, such as chronic pain and substance abuse which leads to even higher costs to employers.
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