About one in five Americans suffer from mental health illness in 2010, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Mental illness can range from anxiety disorder, depression to schizophrenia.
These illnesses can be mild to severe. According to statistics, about five percent of Americans suffer from such severe mental illness that it interferes with job performance, school, work or family. Yet, a lot of these individuals don’t seek help. Why would they not seek help you might ask? Some people believe that if you are perceived to have a mental health illness you will be labeled and treated differently. No one wants to be dismissed as being crazy. I have even heard others in the mental health field address mentally ill individuals as being crazy. Seeking help would just add to the sigma. Going to a mental health professional would mean something is wrong with you.
The criminal justice system in Miami is another example of how the mentally ill are treated. We have Crisis intervention trained officers (CIT), who normally are the first responders for individuals who are experiencing mental health crisis but we still have mentally ill individuals arrested for petty crimes (drinking in public, loitering etc). Jails are not suited to address a wide range of mental health illnesses. Even in jail, there is a stigma. The floor in which they are housed at times is called the crazy floor. Yes, there is a stigma attached to mental health illness. Education is what is required to address the sigma. Individuals that are ill need to know that they can get better and function in society. Society needs to acknowledge that mental health illness affects many Americans and is treatable.