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It feels taboo to talk about it. Although mental illness affects 20% of the population, there’s an unwarranted stigma associated with it. Some people believe it’s a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. The reality is mental illness is a treatable brain disorder that can be caused by genetic, chemical, biological, environmental, and social factors.
“The most important thing you can do to help those affected by mental health disorders is to educate yourself,” says Dr. Tracy Senstock, program director of the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. “Education reduces the fears and misconceptions surrounding mental illness. You can also learn ways to support those with mental health disorders to have healthy and productive lives rather than being ostracized within the community.”
Mental illness can be a highly disruptive force, interfering with work, school, and other major life activities. Unfortunately, access to quality mental healthcare is extremely limited for many. In low- and middle-income countries, there is fewer than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people, leaving people with mental illnesses essentially nowhere to turn for treatment. There’s also a shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S. More than 89 million Americans live in areas that the federal government has designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas.
But that’s where Walden alumni come in. All of the degree programs in the School of Counseling have curricula that focus on working with clients with mental illness, and the more than 2,500 alumni of the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program have the tools necessary to educate individuals, families, and members of the community about mental health.
AWARENESS: The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides background information, statistics, warning signs, and resources to help people in the U.S. find mental healthcare in their community. The organization also sponsors fundraising walks and takes part in advocating for better mental health services with policymakers.
ACTION: Active Minds is a nonprofit organization that works on college campuses to educate young people about mental illness and provide support for students living with mental health issues. Consider bringing an Active Minds speaker to your community. There are more than 400 chapters nationwide.
ADVOCACY: The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit that works to get laws and policies put in place to remove barriers to treatment for people with severe mental illnesses.