TWC: So. Tier Area Advocates Speak out Against Stigma and Shame

NYAPRS Note: Overcoming prejudice and discrimination can happen through laws and policies but, most powerfully, via one conversation and piece of media coverage at a time. Here’s a wonderful piece that featured the work Kim Taro of the MHA of the Southern Tier and a NYAPRS board member and her area colleagues. Click on the link below to see the televised interview.

Community Stamps Out Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

By Brittani Moncrease Time Warner Cable October 2, 2016

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- Kim and Linda are both survivors. For years, they have battled mental illness.

"I know because I've been there. I know what it's like. I know that desperation, that loneliness, that anguish," said Kim Taro, Sunrise Wellness Center Director.

Both women are sharing their stories to help break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"I believe that stigma is just another form of bullying and you know how we all feel about bullying. It's not a nice thing," said Linda Terry-Thomas, Mental Health Awareness Advocate.

"We have so many people. Probably all of us knows someone with a mental illness. Some of us may have it. We have it in our own families," said Ilona Horvath, Church and Society Ministry Chairperson.

According to the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier, one in four American families are affected by mental illness each year.

"Those are the ones we know about. It doesn't include people who hide these things because they're afraid people are going to look down on them and may not go to get help," said Horvath.

Organizers say when people hide, it often leads to other serious problems.

"Addiction is a part of it. When people self-medicate, when people are so lost, they don't know where to get help. They're afraid to tell anybody. They get involved in addictive drugs and alcohol," said Horvath.

Addictions these groups want to prevent.

They say they want people to know that mental illness is not a bad thing and people can overcome it.

"Recovery is possible. I'm evidence that people can get better," said Taro.

"If we are just able to come out with it and be straight forward about it, it will only start to make more sense. We are only as sick as the secrets we keep," said Terry-Thomas.

Showing that stigma is shame and shame causes silence and silence hurts all.