In Brief

The federal government recently developed several free posters and brochures aimed at teaching the public not to discriminate against people with mental illness.

These new public education materials build on recommendations from last June's White House Conference on Mental Health, which focused on dispelling the myths about mental illness and decrying the prejudices against people who seek mental health treatment.

The stigma of mental illness often prevents people from seeking treatment, says Donna E. Shalala, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Of the millions of Americans who experience a mental disorder in any given year, less than one-fourth of them--around 12.5 million citizens--actually seek mental health care," she says.

To help reduce the stigma of mental illness, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is offering the following materials:

  • A poster that delivers the message, "Know me as a person, not by my mental illness."
  • A fact sheet that provides the latest data on mental health, as well as ways to avoid stigmatizing those with mental illness.
  • "Before you label people, look at their content," a brochure that discusses how stigma can affect people.
  • "Mental illness is not a full-time job," a pamphlet that offers job hunting strategies for people with mental illness.
  • "Your child's mental health--what every family should know," a brochure that explains why mental health is an essential component of overall health and provides parents and other caregivers information on a variety of early signs that may point to a possible mental health problem in a child or teenager.
  • "Nurturing your child's mental health," a bookmark that highlights ways to encourage your child in a positive and loving manner.

These materials can be obtained by calling SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services Knowledge Exchange Network at (800) 789-2647.

--L. RABASCA