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Mental health disorders common— and treatable

Stigma can be biggest obstacle to recovery

May 15, 2010
By LISA M. HOFFMANN, Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN - The message at the Nami Wishigan and Northpointe 14th annual Educational Luncheon on Friday was clear: mental illness can affect anyone, including famous people.

Malkia Maisha Newman of Community Network Services, an anti-stigma program, presented "Stomp Out Stigma." The presentation focused on how to decrease stigma by combining factual information about mental health issues with personal stories of recovery.

Maisha Newman said mental disorders span the globe, with 77 million Americans having symptoms of a mental health disorder in any given year.

The United States has the highest rate of mental illness in the world. This is mainly because of cultural differences on what is classified as a mental illness, Newman said.

She noted that in the Middle East if anyone ever found out you had a mental health issue, you would never get married. In Cambodia, there is no word in the language for mental health.

the pictures, there is a lot going on in that brain."

"When you are depressed, you really do have the blues," she said of the darker blue-colored brain pictures. "It makes it hard to get out of bed and do other things. This shows me that that person with a mental health issue has a medical condition. There is something wrong, but it can be treated."

Newman said treatment of mental illnesses used to consist of stripping a person down naked and strapping them to a chair before dousing them in water. She said this treatment did nothing.

Some famous people with mental illnesses: bi-polar, Winston Churchill, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Francis Ford Coppola, Ted Turner; depression, Drew Barrymore, Drew Carey, Courtney Love, Ben Stiller, Rene Zellweger, Halle Berry, Janet Jackson, Sheryl Crow, Winona Ryder, Jim Carrey, Sarah McLachlan, Edgar Allen Poe, Sigmund Freud, Dick Clark, Eric Clapton; social phobia, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand; panic disorder, Charles Darwin; schizophrenia, Vaslav Nijinsky; bulimia nervosa, Princess Diana, Billy Bob Thorton, Elton John, Paula Abdul; anxiety disorder, Oprah Winfrey.

"You have people with the whole world in their hands," Newman said. "If you know someone with a mental health issue, cheer up because you are in very good company."

Newman discussed her own bi-polar experiences. She said she was undiagnosed for 30 years. She said she was first married at 17, first divorced at 19 and it was her baby that kept her from taking her own life. Eventually, medication helped Newman deal with her disorder.

"Having a mental health challenge is not the end of the world. For me it was only the beginning," she said. "Recovery is a journey, not a destination. It is learning to trust yourself again."

Understanding, trust, respect, competence, hope, spirituality, choice and wellness are part of recovery. Newman added when you are truly in recovery, you learn a whole new way of life.

"You're a miracle. Others could not survive what you have been through. Yes, recovery is knowing you are the master of your ship and faith. Believe in yourself, you are stronger than you think," Newman said. "Every day is another opportunity to strive onto your goals. That's the power of recovery."

As for spirituality, Newman said anything that can help a person, can't hurt them.

"The sun will come out tomorrow. There will be sun tomorrow," Newman said. "Hold onto cheer. The sky's the limit."

More than 50 professionals, students, members of the public and those receiving mental health services attended the one-day event.

The Community Network Services program, based out of Oakland County,has been vital to decreasing stigma in local communities by bringing to light the real life stories, struggles and triumphs of those who have been affected by mental illness.

The luncheon at Pine Grove Country Club was presented by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Northpointe Healthcare Systems.

Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is



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