We’re honored and pleased to announce that Psych Central and its 4 million monthly readers will be represented by yours truly, Dr. John Grohol, at the National Conference on Mental Health, which will be held Monday, June 3, 2013 at the White House.
President Obama and Vice President Biden will host the White House Mental Health Conference as part of an effort to launch a national conversation to increase understanding and awareness about mental health.
We hope the conference begins this important dialogue, addressing and opening up the conversation about the mental health concerns of Americans. Because people with mental disorders have suffered needless discrimination and prejudice in this country for far too long.
I’m proud that I’ve been writing about mental illness issues online since 1991 — even before the web. It was that early in my career when I recognized the amazing potential of the Internet to reach millions of people. So I set about making it my life’s goal to reach as many as possible to educate about mental illness and its treatment.
Back in 1991, you couldn’t even look up a mental illness easily. Access to the DSM-III-R (the diagnostic manual used at the time) was extremely limited — most public libraries didn’t even have a copy. You might get a watered down version of what constituted clinical depression from a public health or advocacy organization’s brochure. But it was almost always written in a way to just share the most basic of information.
In 1995, when I first launched Psych Central, I put the symptoms of common mental disorders out there for all to read and learn about. And not just watered-down symptoms — the actual criteria used by professionals to make a diagnosis. This was an eye-opening revelation to many, and the amount of thankful email I received at the time overflowed my inbox.
Because it is information that drives knowledge and, ultimately, increases our empathy and understanding. Without information, we are hopelessly lost in a sea of myths, half-truths, and opinion.
The good news is that today, we’re a long way from the 1990’s attitudes about mental health.
But as the mass shooting incidents in our country over the last year have demonstrated, we still have a long way to go. The first question I often hear asked after such tragedies is disturbing — “Was he mentally ill?” (Which is the wrong question.)
We can’t assume all people who commit gun violence are mentally ill (especially when the vast majority are not), and then in the same breath ask others to speak up about their battles with mental illness. It’s not surprising that many are still reticent, given these kinds of false associations and half-truths.
The National Conference on Mental Health will, according to the White House, “bring together people from across the country — including representatives from state and local governments, mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, and individuals who have struggled with mental health problems — to discuss how we can all work together to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance.”
It’s just not stigma, either. Today, Americans from all walks of life face discrimination and prejudice when they share their mental health diagnosis with others. Employers pass people over for promotions, colleagues make “joking” remarks, and even well-meaning loved ones often treat someone with a mental illness as though it was contagious.
Psych Central is going to do its part in helping to keep the conversation we started back in 1995 going. We will support all advocacy efforts to increase the understanding and awareness about mental illness and positive emotional health through our continued work here on Psych Central, through our over 200 support groups, and our relentless quest to provide people with objective, unbiased information on new disorders, treatments, and self-help techniques.
President Obama is scheduled to deliver the opening remarks for this conference, which will be held at the White House in Washington, DC. Vice President Biden will deliver the closing remarks to conference participants. We look forward to sharing with you what we learn on Monday.