Literacy reduces stigma


Literacy against mental illness stigma

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- “Where are my men?”

Screams a war veteran with a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as he storms into a Battle Creek restaurant thinking it’s a battlefield somewhere in Afghanistan.

The guests call police on him rather than perform CPR. The guy ends up in jail.

Fiction?

No, true.

Annie's Ghosts, a journey into mental illness
Annie’s Ghosts, a journey into mental illness

But what is CPR for mental illnesses?

“Literacy and awareness,” says Robert Lathers, director of Ionia County Community Mental Health. “Mental health literacy.”

Lathers extensively spoke about an important societal issue, which is reducing the stigma of mental illness. He also compared the issue to the fight against racism.

“Let’s understand mental illness first,” he said.

Lathers teaches classes on cultural competency or diversity for mental health workers.

“Nobody else wants to do it or come to them,” he said. “Now, I have a full classroom.”

Diversity and cultural competency including acceptance is a mindset based on personal beliefs. That can be changed, according to Lathers.

ICCMH director Bob Lathers
ICCMH director Bob Lathers

“We need to experience humanity,” he said, “and understand the culture of how we grew up.”

We can experience humanity by talking about what we had for dinner on Sundays as well, laughed Lathers.

Lathers along with the Michigan Humanities Council suggest educating oneself about mental illness by reading a book by Steve Luxenberg “Annie’s Ghosts.”

Luxenberg is an editor and writer for Washington Post who grew up in Detroit.

The reviews include the following statement by Deborah Tannen:

“…a riveting detective story, a moving family saga, an enlightening if heartbreaking chapter in the history of America’s treatment of people born with what we now call special needs.”

Copyright © 2014 story and photo by Emma Palova

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