Kalamazoo WRAPS Project Director Michelle Houtrow says organizers wanted to launch an anti-stigma campaign, but after meeting with focus groups decided to call it a stigma free campaign.
Houtrow says the idea of the #LookBeyond campaign is to look beyond a diagnosis and see the whole person. Houtrow, Amy Helmuth, Family Support Partner Supervisor for Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Michael Parker, a member of the KCMSAS Consumer Advisory Council joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans.
Parker knows first-hand what it means to be stigmatized. He was eventually diagnosed schizoaffective and bipolar. Parker says “it hurts way deep inside” to feel stigma. He now plays guitar and hopes to use his art to raise awareness about stigmatizing people with mental illness. Parker says there is more conversation about mental illness, but he says more dialogue is needed.
Amy Helmuth says stigmatizing people with mental illness also impacts their families. “The labels aren’t what’s important, it’s the human beings that are important.”
Houtrow says stigmatizing also makes it more difficult for people to come forward and seek help for mental illness or addiction. She says that marginalizes the most vulnerable in the community.
The #LookBeyond Campaign is funded by a two year grant. But Houtrow says they hope to continue beyond that timeline.