|By Luna, Jennifer|
At nightfall, the Joker breaks into
Suddenly, the dark night bursts in through a window and fights the crook. Batman beats the maniac, and escorts the crazed lunatic to Arkham Asylum.
Children seeing characters depicted like the Joker on screen can influence the impression that all people with mental disorders are monsters. Most young people with a mental health disorder are afraid to open up about their disorder with the fear of being rejected by their peers.
Staff psychiatric and medical director of Clarity Child Guidance Center,
She said the media often distorts the reality of mental health issues, and does not approach it in a proper manner.
"Unfortunately, media in general associates mental health with violence, and that is not the case," Michelsen said. "Media gives a misrepresentation of what it is and how to treat it... it yields people away."
She said these negative associations create stigma, an ugly little word that can prevent or delay treatment to those who are mentally ill.
"Stigma is a black mark, a negative label," said Michelsen. "With mental health, there is no doubt stigma is associated with it. It's quiet and under wraps, and is not to discuss, even if someone gets worse and worse, if they talk about it, they're afraid they might be reprehended for it."
Clarity is among other centers in
Rebecca Heiterbrand, Vice President of the center, markets and develops resources for Clarity.
She explains how mental health disorders can stem from a variety of areas, and diagnoses can happen to anyone at any time.
"Mental illness has many forms, it can be trauma based, genetic or chemical... It can strike anyone ...It doesn't know demographics," Heiterbrand said.
About 20 percent of children have a mental health disorder. She said if 20 percent of children had Leukemia, finding a cure for the disease will have the needed awareness and support, however, mental illness seems to be ignored.
"I think there's tremendous stigma," said Heiterbrand. "Parents don't want to be judged or their children being judged."
However, Michelsen said the key aspect of this shameful feeling, is not knowing what mental illness is.
"The real foundation of stigma is lack of knowledge and education," she said. "When you don't talk about it, you don't break false beliefs."
Michelsen added like HIV, diabetes and obesity, much of these medical conditions were unknown, and were not talked about until awareness spread, and people started talking about it.
"We're at that stage with mental health issues," she confirmed.
Michelsen works with the Southwest psychiatric division of
She described the daily ignominies families endure, when undergoing outpatient treatment, the most common service used.
"What I usually see on an outpatient bases is a child that already has had issues with depression, and anxiety," she said. "The parents feel they're flawed in a certain way, they put the responsibility on themselves; they think there is some level of control over them (the children). There is, but there's not a level of complete control," Michelsen explains.
Heiterbrand and Michelsen ensure mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and talking will only help end the stigma.
"Let's talk openly about it. Families suffer in silence," Helterbrand said.
Mental health issues are medical problems, and not flaws in our personality she added.
In an attempt to increase awareness, and end stigma, Clarity sponsored the campaign, One in Five Minds.
It's been over a year since the center launched the campaign, which sprouted from shocking statistics.
One in five children has a mental, emotional, or behavioral health disorder. Of those, 80 percent do not receive treatment because access to insurance or services is limited, but mainly because of stigma.
Chapa said her brother, an intellectual star athlete, started to rebel around 14 and ended up being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Teachers and doctors told her mother the rebellion was just a phase and to stand firm.
Now, 30, her brother relies on his mother for everyday needs.
She said he cannot get a job, or finish his college education because he is not mentally stable, and no programs are able to help him.
"He's tired of being sick," Chapa said. "I carry an instermaluble (sic) amount of guilt because I never asked him, why he was drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana at the age of 14." Chapa said. "To the contrary, I used to get mad at him... Perhaps, if I had asked we would all have known he was self medicating. Michael (her brother) would be in a much different place today had he had early diagnosis."
Heiterbrand and Michelsen say the younger a mental health condition is addressed and treated, the better the chances mental stability can be achieved. By first breaking the stigma, patients can be treated earlier.
Although stigma is a large problem, Michelsen said over the past 10 years, she sees progress in fighting the uphill battle.
"You can see the parents seeking help," she said. "I'm seeing more people feeling more comfortable talking about it."
There's more work to be done, nonetheless she believes mental health illness will one day not be so looked down upon. The primary goal is for children not to feel like the monsters or the Jokers in a Batman episode, but someone who just so happened to encounter a treatable medical condition.
"I am extremely hopeful we can break the stigma on mental health issue... ADHD for example, is a chemical change in the brain. Mental health disorders are a medical condition," she emphasized. "It has nothing to do with having a flawed personality."
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