Imagine Sara, a 15-year-old girl, straight-A student, and varsity cheerleader with a promising, full life ahead of her. The outside world sees her as perfect. Little do they know, she harbors a secret eating disorder that, by her 16th birthday, she will end up dying from. Had there been policy that enacted school curriculum to help students understand that mental illness is a brain disease and addressed the social stigma associated with such an illness, Sara could have sought help and might still be alive today. Social workers can advocate for awareness and stigma-reduction campaigns at schools, colleges, and workplaces so that people like Sara can get the help they need before it’s too late.
The most innovative and effective treatments for mental disorders will be of no use if the stigma attached to mental disorders prevents individuals from acknowledging their illness, seeking help, and remaining in treatment. How can social workers advocate and bring awareness to society that mental illness is a brain disease and address the social stigma associated with such an illness? What potential does mass media have to change attitudes towards mental illness, and how can the social work profession leverage that for policy change?
Upon successful completion of this discussion, you will be able to:
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1) Galson, S. (2009). Surgeon General’s Perspectives: Mental Health Matters. Retrieved from https://brightspace.indwes.edu/content/enforced/123266-3FA2020SWK-543- 01DJ/Mental%20Health%20Matters.pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=NI18K6miUnbRUCDITr6KvZrho&ou=123266
2) Insel, T. (2013). Toward a new understanding of mental illness. Retrieved from https://fod-
Today, thanks to better early detection, there are 63% fewer deaths from heart disease than there were just a few decades ago. In the video you will watch for this assignment, Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, poses this question: Could we do the same for depression and schizophrenia? The first step in this new avenue of research, he says, is a crucial reframing: to stop thinking about “mental disorders” and start understanding them as “brain disorders.”
Social workers can take a more active role in protecting consumer rights and raising awareness about the need for improved services and expanded policy initiatives for mental illness.
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