Local organizations want to get rid of mental health stigma

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The words “mental health” mean something different to everyone. The CDC recognizes more than 200 types of mental illnesses.

The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville said many people are scared to talk about their mental health struggles because they are afraid of being labeled.

Melissa Thompson is the Chief Operating Officer of Community Foundation and she said the stigma around mental illness needs to be addressed. “Because when people feel like it’s just them. They are in this alone, they don’t reach out for help.”

However, those who are dealing with mental health issues are not alone. Statistics from the National Alliance of Mental Health show mental illness affects many. 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness and nearly 1 in 25 live with severe mental illness. For many, the effects can be felt as young as age 14.

Jeremy Blair, CEO of WellStone, which is an organization that provides behavioral health services, said Alabama needs more funding to address the communities mental health needs.

“We haven’t had any increased state funding in 15 years, but we’re still providing the same services at that same level or even an increased level,” he explained.

According to Mental Health America, Alabama is ranked 50th out of all states plus the District of Columbia in access to mental health care. This means the state offers little resources for those with a mental illness.

The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville also said that although there are beds in nearby Decatur, there are zero beds in Madison County available for children who need in-patient care for mental health issues.

The two organizations have come together in an effort to raise awareness in the community. Their hope is – once people are more educated on the effects of mental illness and the need for more care – they will push local legislatures to make changes.

Blair believes changes at the local level could have an effect statewide.

“That translates to our legislatures in Montgomery really understanding the value of investing in mental health,” he said.

The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville and the Women’s Philanthropy Society are hosting “Toasting with Tallulah,” a women’s night out and fundraiser for mental health programs. The event will take place on March 28 and tickets are available at The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville Website.

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