The Feb. 18 Business article "Should You Tell?; For People With a Mental Illness, There's No Easy Answer" got it right on an issue that should be part of society's mainstream consciousness. Mental illness must not be stigmatized.

As the article noted, one in four people has depression or some other mental illness. Two other facets of mental illness are particularly profound:

First, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24, with depression the leading cause of suicide.

Second, studies have shown that 50 percent of all cases of mental disorders begin by age 14, and three-quarters begin by 24.

Mental disorders impose enormous burdens and can have intergenerational consequences. They reduce the quality of children's lives and diminish their productivity later in life. But mental illnesses can occur at any stage of life. No community is unaffected, no school or workplace untouched.

Stigma is the most formidable obstacle to treatment and progress. New research tells us that the average delay between diagnosis and treatment is seven years. That is unacceptable.

When we think of a person with cancer, it evokes compassion and empathy. But when we think of a person with a mental illness, do we feel compassion and empathy? Or is it reproach, maybe even fear?

It's 2007. Let's resolve that no disease deserves to be stigmatized.


Director, Potomac Ridge

Behavioral Health Foundation