Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition

Visit www.itsok.us for more information.

One in four people will be diagnosed with a mental illness this year. Mental illness is so commonplace that the National Institutes of Mental Health reports “mental illness is more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease.”

While commonplace, many people won’t talk about mental illness because of the stigma attached to it.  This stigma doesn’t permit those individuals to get the support of their family, friends and community.  When someone we care about is dealing with a physical illness, people don’t hesitate to seek out their friends and family support.  Why should things be different for those experiencing mental illness?

In 2010, a group of concerned individuals in the Jewish community got together and began a frank conversation about mental illness, suicide and our community’s response to grief and loss. The result was the formation of the Jewish Community Mental Health Coalition (JCMHC) made up of Jewish Family Services, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City representing the Jewish congregations in Kansas City and a dedicated group of volunteers.

The JCMHC campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illness was launched in September 2013, targeted to the Jewish community.  The campaign message was:  “Mental Illness: It’s real. It’s common. It’s treatable. And it’s OK to talk about it. Start the conversation today.”

In May 2014, following many conversations and meetings among local and state mental health professionals, social service organizations and advocacy groups, more than a dozen community organizations have come together to build on the coalition formed in the Jewish community by creating the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition.  This new coalition, under the leadership of Jewish Family Services, will pool resources and expertise for an anti-stigma campaign throughout our community.

The goal is to take mental illness out of the shadows so all those dealing with it can have the support of their friends and family.  Just as we have learned to talk more easily about AIDS/HIV, cancer, or addiction, we are learning to be more open about recovery from mental illness.  We need to be compassionate, understanding and have frank discussions to build connection instead of isolation. The reduction of the stigma associated with mental illness will follow a similar reduction of stigma of cancer in the 1960s and 1970s and AIDS in the 1990s.

To learn how the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition’s Anti-Stigma campaign can help YOU start the conversation, visit www.itsok.us for more.