Kansas City group fights mental illness stigma

(KSNT Photo/Brian Dulle)
(KSNT Photo/Brian Dulle)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new group of Kansas City-area residents wants people with mental illnesses to feel comfortable talking about their struggles.

About a dozen health agencies have formed the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition and plan an expanded effort to remove the stigma from mental illness, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/1jyw74t ).

The campaign, which can be found at www.itsok.us , will include video testimonials from people with mental illness, along with providing banners, posters and post cards with messages encouraging people to talk about their illnesses without shame.

“Mental illness is so prevalent among the people we serve and indeed within each of our own families,” said Dan Powers, chief executive officer of coalition member Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph. “I think we can point to instances where there is mental illness and our family members struggle.”

Powers said his mother had severe depression and he was often bewildered about what to do.

“One of the reasons for the stigma is that people believe that mental illness is a curse from God,” Powers said. “And it’s not. We need to say in the faith community that mental illness is not a curse, it’s not a punishment. . We have to allow our brothers and sisters to stand up and talk about the pain and loneliness and struggle they are going through.”

Jewish Family Services began the campaign last September, said Don Goldman, the group’s executive director. The group in 2010 joined with the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City to form the Jewish Community Mental Health Coalition. The organization believes removing the stigma of mental illness would encourage people to seek help while also promoting understanding.

Other members in the coalition promoting the expanded campaign include Research Psychiatric Center, NAMI Kansas, Suicide Awareness Survivor Support, Bike 4 the Brain and the eight members of the Metropolitan Council of Community Mental Health Centers.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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