Friday, May 24, 2024


I am going to jump in headfirst without concern for my own personal well-being. No need to worry, I have a hard head and it will not be as controversial as you may already be imagining. This week’s fireside chat is about stigma, prejudice, and discrimination regarding mental health. While a CVSO’s focus is on Veterans, I think we should all be able to learn from each other. We are all human beings after all, even if some of us Veterans seem alien-like.

I was hoping to find a pile of well-defined statistics regarding the percentage of Veterans with mental health conditions. I found one indicating 40% of Veterans have mental health issues or substance abuse problems (appears to be “diagnosed”). Based on my experience with Veterans not reporting health issues, I am estimating the number to be 120%. All kidding aside, the numbers are high.

The remainder of the information I will be providing comes from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) webpage: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-dis-crimination

More than half of people with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders. Often, people avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently or fears of losing their jobs and livelihoods. That’s because stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against people with mental illness are still very much a problem.

Stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against people with mental illness can be subtle or it can be obvious—but no matter the magnitude, it can lead to harm. People with mental illness are marginalized and discriminated against in various ways, but understanding what that looks like and how to address and eradicate it can help.

Stigma often comes from lack of understanding or fear. Inaccurate or misleading media representations of mental illness contribute to both those factors. A review of studies on stigma shows that while the public may accept the medical or genetic nature of a mental health disorder and the need for treatment, many people still have a negative view of those with mental illness. I have only skimmed the surface and I would encourage everyone to read the entire APA webpage.

I need to point out that I am not making excuses for those dealing with mental health conditions nor am I blaming those inadvertently perpetuating the problem. Actions have consequences and words matter. I think we could all use a long look in the mirror each day before participating in society.

I admit I am guilty of stigma, prejudice, or discrimination due to my mental health ignorance. I think it is time to acknowledge, accept, and act. We can talk about a problem, or we can implement solutions. I prefer the latter.

Brad Anderson and Melissa Crandall are the Lake County Veterans Service Officers and can be reached at 218.834.8326 or cvso@co.lake.mn.us

Karen Christianson is the Cook County Vet­erans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.387.3639, or karen.christianson@co.cook.mn.us

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