News Article Details

RESPECT program works to fight mental health stigmas

St. Joseph News-Press - 4/27/2017

April 27--Her name was Colby. The Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center patient shared the story of her struggles with mental illness with nursing students, fellow patients and community members Wednesday in a crowded Vandiver Hall inside the center.

She spoke of hearing voices and struggles with suicide for years. After being involved in a fatal accident as a result of her illness, she began to get the help she needed and today is well on the road to recovery.

"Today, I can see a future for myself and I couldn't do that for a long time. I hope to rejoin the community someday," she said.

Colby was one of four NMPRC and Center for Behavioral Medicine (CBM) patients who shared their stories in the seventh annual RESPECT Day program.

RESPECT is a program that was created by mental health advocate and international consultant Joel Slack as a vehicle for mentally ill patients who are members of the RESPECT Institute to inform the public about the challenges on dealing with mental illness.

Their goal also is to provide hope to those fellow individuals who suffer from mental illness and their families, explained Gail Current, NMPRC activity therapy and RESPECT coordinator.

"The goal is to reduce stigma of mental illness. We're trying to reduce stigma one story at a time, and the other (goal) would be to help people through their process of recovery by learning to put their story together and share it and answer questions. It kind of helps them move through their recovery process," Current said.

Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Dimmitt, a behavioral sciences instructor from Northwest Missouri State University, said people who suffer from a mental illness don't often received the support of others who have a physical illness such as diabetes and cancer. Mental illness is a story that's hard to read and the challenge is to see it in a different way.

"My challenge is to see things through these new eyes," she said.

After the guest speakers, a panel of mental health professional held a question and answer session.

Current said the RESPECT Institute has had more than 28 speakers over the last seven years who've shared their stories at colleges, crisis intervention training, law enforcement center, civic and other community groups.

"It's a very positive thing for the consumers to share their stories," she said.

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(c)2017 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

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