The Carter Center Mental Health Program: Combating the Stigma of Mental Illness
Back in 1971 when Rosalynn Carter began working on mental health care issues, few people even spoke the words "mental health." Mental health referred only to mental illnesses, and mental illnesses were shrouded in such shame and stigma that many people neglected the issue. Today, much has changed. A family consumer movement started in the early 1980s, research has given us tremendous knowledge about the brain and new medications, and mental health services have improved significantly.
Yet, much remains to be done. People with mental illnesses still face great stigma and discrimination. The importance of mental health promotion is under-recognized, and insurance providers often do not provide parity for mental health treatment. In the United States alone, mental illnesses are the second leading cause of disability, and mental disorders affect one in five Americans, according to the first-ever surgeon general's report on mental health, released in December 1999.