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A new effort was launched Monday in Indiana to combat stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders.

The Indiana Recovery Council’s “Stigma Never Helps” campaign is focusing on the words and language people use and has created educational resources at StigmaNeverHelps.com for people to download and share.

The council, which advises the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, said dismissive and critical words and phrases such as “crazy,” “are you high?” or somebody is “out of their mind or insane” cause people to feel shame. And that, they said, makes it less likely that they will seek the help they need for fear of being judged or ostracized.

Changing words and perceptions may not seem like a big thing, the council said, but it can be life-changing for many. Instead of saying someone is “brain damaged,” the council suggested people choose positive, person-first statements:

  • He has a brain injury
  • He experiences symptoms of psychosis or he hears voices
  • She has an intellectual disability
  • He has autism
  • She is living with bipolar disorder
  • She attempted suicide
  • A person with a substance-use, alcohol or drug disorder.

The council said the problems of mental health and substance abuse are widespread, citing statistics that show nearly one in four Indiana adults have experienced depression; one in five U.S. adults have experienced mental illness and 8.5 million American adults suffered from both mental health and substance abuse in 2017 alone. But, the council said, only about 19 percent of those who need treatment get it, and 75 percent of those with a mental illness report feeling stigmatized by their condition.

 “We are very aware that stigma concerning mental illness and addictions, coupled with the lack of knowledge and discrimination, are among the biggest obstacles for people seeking support and treatment,” Barbara Elliott, president and CEO of Fairbanks, an Indianapolis treatment and recovery center, said in a statement. “We are excited to align ourselves with this important project and continue to be a part of this change.”

Also pledging to support the effort are Anthem, Mental Health America of Indiana, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Indiana.

Steve McCaffrey, president and CEO of Mental Health America of Indiana, said in a statement that “the more Hoosiers we can educate about the damaging effects of stigma, the more barriers we can remove that keep individuals in need from moving into a healthy life.”