In commenting on President Obama’s recent conference that called for the end of mental illness stigma, Michele Nealon-Woods of Huffington Post points out two notable omissions from the well-intentioned and timely proceedings.
First, she notes that significant change in how the United States considers mental illness and mental health treatment will require significant change (i.e., increase) in mental health funding. This includes research, community programs, and reimbursement of mental health care — which ought to extend to private insurance companies as well as public assistance programs.
Second, Obama’s conference also failed to explicitly address the importance of forwarding an agenda of cultural competence in the mental health field. The stigma of mental illness is not just an “American” problem but one that pervades many racial, ethnic, and cultural groups within the United States. Much of the distrust in minority communities is founded on real disparities in the quality of care that they receive, and individual providers as well as larger institutions need training and resources to properly serve those populations. In other words, the removal of stigma within mental health requires both the dispelling of false beliefs and the improvement of aspects that remain problematic.