When it comes to mental health, many people confuse feeling bad with being bad. Mental illness is not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.
Many factors out of one’s control influence whether someone develops a mental health condition: genetics, environment and lifestyle. Being a victim of a crime or having a stressful work or home life can make some people more susceptible.
Yet even though most people with mental illness can be successfully treated and live productive lives, less than half of the adults in the U.S. who need services or treatment get the help that can make a difference.
One reason: Stigma. The isolation, blame, fear and secrecy that is often associated with mental illness can discourage people from reaching out, getting the needed support and getting healthy.
May is Mental Health Awareness month and you can help make Idaho StigmaFree by participating in several events to be held around the state. You’ll find a complete list here, including a special event Thursday, May 11, 2017 that’s free to the public in the Lincoln Auditorium of the Idaho State Capitol, 700 W. Jefferson St. in Boise, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Among the featured speakers:
- Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little, proclaiming May as Mental Health Awareness Month in Idaho.
- Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Administrator for the Division of Behavioral Health Ross Edmunds presenting the first-ever Voices of Idaho award to Lisa Koller. Lisa is a peer support specialist and recovery coach at The Center for Hope, a recovery community center in Idaho Falls. Lisa uses her experiences to motivate and empower others who struggle with mental health and substance use disorder challenges.
- Boise teen Eric Walton, chairman of Youth MOVE (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) a group dedicated to reducing stigma and providing support to youth with mental illness.
- Meridian teacher Melissa Freese, whose teenage daughter’s 2014 completed suicide inspired her to lend support to young people struggling with mental illness and self-harm.
- Will Browning, a foreign language interpreter for various Treasure Valley medical clinics and mental health specialist who works with clients via community outreach at All Together Now, Inc. to help them in recoveries from mental health issues.
- Ryan, a Boise State University student who was first diagnosed with a mental health condition at age 7 and has persevered on his journey to overcome the challenges mental illness presents.
In addition to the speakers at the May 11 event, you can also view recovery oriented artwork, short stories and poetry submitted by individuals throughout the state in recognition of Mental Health Awareness month. The artwork and writings will be on display in the first floor rotunda at the Idaho Capitol from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the day of the event, then in the lobby of the Pete T. Cenarussa office building, 450 W. State St. in Boise through the month of May.
Also in May, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Idaho Regional Behavioral Health Boards around the state will be recognizing those in the community who have worked to reduce stigma around mental health and to inspire hope, recover and resiliency. This year’s honorees are:
Voices of Idaho Award
- Lisa Koller, Idaho Falls. (Presented May 11 during the Idaho State Capitol event, and recognized at the Region. 7 Behavioral Health Board meeting May 19)
Regional Empowerment Awards
- Mindy Leager, Coeur d’Alene. (Presented May 3 at the Region 1 Behavioral Health Board meeting)
- Desirae Dade, Twin Falls. (Presented May 10 at the Region 5 Behavioral Health Board Meeting)
- Michelle McMillan, Boise. (Presented May 11 at the Region 4 Behavioral Health Board Meeting)
- Beth Patzer, Lewiston. (Presented May 11 at the Region 2 Behavioral Health Board Meeting)
- Logan Zuck, Idaho Falls. (Presented May 19 at the Region 7 Behavioral Health Board Meeting)
- Bert Fiskum, Caldwell. (Presented May 24 at the Region 3 Behavioral Health Board Meeting)
- Joy Fryman, Couer d’Alene. (Presented May 3 at the Region 1 Behavioral Health Board meeting)
- Curtis O’Daniel, Boise. (Presented May 11 at the Region 4 Behavioral Health Board meeting)
- Eve Pike, Caldwell. (Presented May 24 at the Region 3 Behavioral Health Board meeting)
More information available from the IDHW Behavior Health Events webpage.