Monday, April 7, 2008

Active Minds: Stomping Out the Stigma

A new group on Central Michigan University's campus has a mission. The group, Active Minds, wants to 'Stomp Out the Stigma' of Mental Illness. These illnesses include depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder.

Yesterday afternoon the group carried out their mission by holding a "Stomp Out the Stigma" 5k run and 2-mile walk. I participated in the latter as I gave up running long ago due to weak shins.

For $15 and $10 respectively participants received a t-shirt, a small, yellow smiley-face ball and the opportunity to run or walk a well chalked-out course on campus. They gave prizes for the best finishers of the (running) race and also prizes for all participants. They drew names that were written on a paper and tossed in a jar during registration. No, I didn't win, but I still took something away from the event.

After prizes were given out, former Detroit Lions Quarterback (1980-1989), Eric Hipple appeared as the keynote speak. Mr. Hipple talked of missing an entire spring semester because he just couldn't get out of bed. His coaches helped him "get through it (depression)" and he moved on.

Depression came back into his life when his fifteen-year-old son (who was apparently depressed) committed suicide in 2000. Today the former quarterback worked to stomp out the stigma by speaking to the crowd that gathered after the race. The first step, he said, was to get the information about depression out there. The second step is to knock down the stigma connected to illnesses such as depression.

"It takes teamwork to get the information out," Mr. Hipple said, noting that he first learned teamwork while playing football.

A student who is on the E-board of Active Minds attends the (non-E) board meetings of Central Michigan Autism Society of America. She announced the event at our last meeting. We were invited to present some of our information, but most of us were overwhelmed with autism awareness multi-event planning. Next year however, we may set up a table. This is definitely a great event to support.

My thoughts: I do not believe autism is a mental illness, but unfortunately I'm aware of individuals in our society who attach a stigma to ASD. Further, frustration with the limitations that symptoms of ASD present and social rejection can lead to depression amongst some (but not all) individuals on the spectrum. It is important for parents to be able to recognize the signs of depression so that their child with ASD can be helped. Depression doesn't always go away on its own, so it's important to seek ways to assist youth who are exhibiting the symptoms.


Casdok said...

Very good post and i totally agree with your thoughts.

Marla said...

The hard thing is that many insurances do consider Autism to be a mental illness and too many companies do not purchase health insurance that covers mental illness. So, many people are left without coverage due to the diagnosis. We have had this problem with a previous insurance company and it about broke us.

J said...

To Casdok: Thanks!

To Marla: The issue you address is something that the Autism Society of Michigan advocating working for--state legislation written so that insurance companies must pay for autism-related costs. I'm not sure if the law written will identify autism as a mental illness or not. I prefer to think of it as a neurologogical disorder. Oh, the politics of it all!

EMR said...

It is sad indeed that there is stigma attached to the one chooses it and when one has got it he needs all the love and courage of the world to fight it.