Both the U.S. and British armed forces have launched efforts to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness, urging soldiers to come forward for treatment. The "Real Warriors Campaign" in the United States and the "Don't Bottle It Up" initiative in the United Kingdom aim to convince troops that mental illness is treatable and should not be looked upon with shame or embarrassment.
"I was very impressed to know they were doing that," Gunter said of the armed forces' stigma campaigns.
Societal stigma also can hamper treatment if people don't receive the support they need from family and friends, she said, adding that all too often, people diagnosed with a mental illness find their loved ones acting differently toward them.
"It affects their network of support," Gunter said. "If you were diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, you'd tell everyone and you'd be supported and prayed for and nurtured. If you tell people you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you won't necessarily receive that same level of support."
Misconceptions and ignorance regarding mental illness fuel the stigma, Fitzpatrick added.
"People don't know where to go for treatment. They don't know what they're seeing," he said. "Mental illnesses are kind of where cancer was in the '50s. Not a lot is known about either the disease or the treatment."
That's why problems such as depression and anxiety are becoming more accepted -- the spotlight has shone brightest on these disorders, creating better education among the populace, he explained.
However, media portrayals of mental illness sometimes foster and reinforce people's worst fears.
Mental illness usually hits the news when tragedy has struck, Fitzpatrick said, such as when U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson, Ariz., last January. Jared Lee Loughner has been charged in the case.
"The booking photo of Loughner in Arizona brought the
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