Did you know not only is there a stigma associated with mental illness but there is also a stigma about donating to mental health charities and organizations? The mental health organization that raises the most funds still only raises about ten cents on the dollar compared to the American Cancer Society. Why is that?
It’s All About Perception
The most likely reason is perception. It is definitely harder to capture people’s attention with stories of mental-health problems than, say, photos and stories of natural disasters, or abused animals, or children. About one in four adults suffers from a mental disorder and one in 17 people live with a serious mental illness like major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, according to the National Institute on Mental Health. The World Health Organization estimates 450 million people worldwide suffer from such diseases, and yet, all we hear about are continuous cuts to budgets providing services to those struggling with mental illness.
In 2014, billionaire businessman Ted Stanley made one of the largest donations to medical research ever, pledging $650 million to the study of the genetics behind psychiatric disorders. Such donations are rare and yet, they are so sorely needed….donations for research AND for patient care. Ken Duckworth, the medical director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness has pointed to the complexity of mental health issues as a factor that discourages donors. It’s tough to point to immediate results, which is something that donors often want to see.
According to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “public awareness of the widespread impact of mental illness on society is lagging. People are slowly waking up to the fact that the leading causes of disability are psychiatric,” Dr. Duckworth says. ‘That’s something people have been to slow to understand and slow to appreciate. Furthermore, public awareness of the widespread impact of mental illness on society is lagging.”
Changing Perceptions One Donor at a Time
Meanwhile, those who are struggling need our help and if we provide it, we all win. What is more important to a society than the productiveness and health of its people? There’s nothing that strengthens a community more than having its citizens living dignified, meaningful lives, allowing them to contribute to the health and well-being of the community as a whole.
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