In support of Mental Health Month, which began May 1, Managed Health Network, Inc. (MHN), a subsidiary of Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT), today announced its support of the national Stamp Out Stigma campaign. The campaign, launched by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW), is intended to change perceptions and reduce the stigma of mental illness.

“You just can’t separate mental and physical health,” said Steve Blake, MHN’s vice president of Clinical Services.

According to the ABHW, one in four adults in America will experience a mental illness in any given year. Despite this high incidence, those experiencing mental health issues often are stigmatized leaving many afraid to talk about their experiences or seek help.

“Fortunately, as a result of the Mental Health Parity Act and the Affordable Care Act, more people are gaining access to quality behavioral health services,” said Blake. “The next step is building awareness so that people will access the help they need. The Stamp Out Stigma campaign is a great step in that direction.”

Campaign Goals

According to the ABHW, the goals of the Stamp Out Stigma campaign include:
  • increasing awareness regarding the prevalence of mental illness;
  • sharing factual information about mental illness; and
  • reducing the stigma of mental illness.

“Mental health diagnoses are more prevalent than heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, migraines, osteoporosis and asthma, yet misconceptions and misinformation have left many with mental illness afraid to talk about their experiences or to seek help,” says ABHW CEO Pamela Greenberg. “This campaign is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the behavioral health industry to make a lasting contribution to the growing movement to reduce the stigma of mental illness.”

Mental Illness – Defined

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.

According to Blake, “Many people have mental health concerns from time to time, but a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect a person’s ability to function.” A mental illness can negatively impact an individual’s ability to navigate daily life, such as being able to hold a job or maintain relationships. In many cases, mental illness symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and counseling.

Recognizing Mental Illness

As Blake points out, “We all have bad days, so it can be hard to tell when you or someone you love could benefit from professional help. Pay attention to symptoms that are persistent and that prevent you from functioning normally. Some problems – like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia – are more noticeable to others than to the person affected. That’s why it’s important to listen when someone you trust suggests you need help.”

Symptoms of mental illness may include:
  • feeling sad or down;
  • confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate;
  • excessive fears or worries;
  • extreme mood changes;
  • withdrawal from friends and activities previously enjoyed;
  • significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping;
  • detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations;
  • inability to cope with daily problems;
  • extreme feelings of guilt;
  • alcohol or drug abuse;
  • marked changes in eating habits;
  • sex drive changes;
  • excessive anger, hostility or violence; and
  • suicidal thoughts.

Getting Help

Blake said that if you have any symptoms of a mental illness, you should contact your primary care physician or mental health provider. Mental illnesses generally don’t improve on their own, and if left untreated, a mental illness can escalate over time and cause serious problems.

Suicidal thoughts are common with some mental illnesses, and Blake advises anyone contemplating suicide to get help right away. Some options include:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately;
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line;
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one; or
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about mental illness,” Blake said. “Many people think that mental illness is a sign of weakness, or they doubt that anyone or anything can make them feel better. The truth is, however, that mental illness is real and it’s treatable.”

Medical Advice Disclaimer

The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care provider’s instructions.

About Health Net

Health Net, Inc. is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net provides and administers health benefits to approximately 5.3 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as “Part D”), Medicaid, U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Health Net also offers behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs, managed health care products related to prescription drugs, managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers, and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs.

For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Net’s website at www.healthnet.com.

Copyright Business Wire 2010