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Removing Barriers to Getting Help for Mental Health Issues

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May 30, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As part of May's observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, advocates say there are barriers even for those seeking help.

One issue is the stigma, says Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota. As an example, she says, a survey of those hospitalized for mental illness found that most never received "get well" cards.

"If you just think about that, how isolating that would be, the fact that no one is acknowledging you have that illness, or that you will get better. I think it's a pretty serious statement about how we as a society view mental illnesses."

In Minnesota, one in four people will suffer with a mental illness at some point in his or her life. Abderholden says the spectrum is wide.

"You have people who, maybe, have mild anxiety or depression but can still carry on with their lives and not have it interrupt it in any way. And then you have people at the very far end, whose mental illness really does impact their ability to live, work and have normal relationships."

Most people wait 10 years before seeking help, Abderholden says. In addition to the stigma, she says, other barriers to care include a severe shortage of psychiatrists in the state, as well as mental-health treatment not being covered by all insurance plans.

More information is online at namihelps.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN