Friday, April 17, 2009

4 misconceptions of mental health: "Conversation" program at The Carter Center

We arrived at The Carter Center yesterday afternoon for the Ambassador Circle briefing conference.

One panel discussion was already in progress on Middle East peace efforts of the Center. The speakers were John Stemlau, vice president of Peace Programs; Hrair Balian, director of Conflict Resolution Program; Karin Ryan, director of Human Rights Program; and Sarah Johnson, assistant director of Democracy Program.

A nice reception followed so we could meet the staff and mingle with the hundred or so other guests.

In the evening, the "Conversation" event reviewed Mental Illnesses: Myths and Realities.

Mrs. Carter opened the program by highlighting that our knowledge of the brain and the biological basis of mental illness has helped reduce the stigma. And that a new bill was just passed to create parity for mental illness with other physical illnesses in insurance coverage.

Noted mental health and anti-stigma experts Dr. Patrick Corrigan from IIT, Dr. Ben Druss from Emory, and Charles Willis of the Georgie Mental Health Consumer Network addresses four primary misconceptions that are the most harmful to efforts to improve access to mental health care and fight discrimination against people with mental illness.

Myth 1: People with mental illnesses tend to be violent. (They actually suffer more violence against them)

Myth 2: Most mental illness is treated by psychiatrists and psychologists. (More is treated by general practice, and even more in school, church, and group settings)

Myth 3: These are conditions from which you cannot recover. (Symptoms are treated with meds, but the true causes are treated with a full network of support. Studies have shown majority of patients can fully recover.)

Myth 4: Stigma is deeply rooted and unlikely to change. (Contact with "real" patients can create greater dignity and respect)

The discussion will be facilitated by the Center's Mental Health Program Director Dr. Thom Bornemann.

The program will be posted in the archived section of the Carter Center website at

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