It’s time to talk about mental health

Halle Berry and Tom Hanks both have Type 2 diabetes, Selena Gomez has lupus, Pink and Leslie Lohan have asthma, and Kim Kardashian has psoriasis. Each one of these celebrities has been open and forthcoming about their conditions. Some celebrities even become the face of their disease. Michael J. Fox is known as much for his advocacy for research into Parkinson’s as he is for the “Back to the Future” franchise.

    Yet, Mariah Carey suffered with bipolar disorder for 17 years before opening up about her struggle.  In People magazine’s April 23, 2018, issue, she discussed her condition, saying, “Until recently, I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” the singer explained.

    Then, last week the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain came out. Across the country, suicide rates have increased dramatically in the past 16 years. More than half the states have seen suicides jump by 30 percent or more.

    Depression, anxiety and substance abuse are all hard-enough obstacles to deal with without piling on shame, fear and isolation. Now, more than ever, we need to pull together and support everyone, no matter their struggles. Mental health touches every one of us. It is time to end the stigma of mental illness.

    Mental illness is treatable, suicide is preventable, and people need to feel safe to admit their struggles, to seek help, to share their difficulties and ultimate triumphs.

    NAMI Wood River Valley has embarked on a campaign to make our valley “Stigma Free.” We have brought this national campaign, called the StigmaFree Pledge, to our community, a three-part promise to: 1. Learn about mental-health issues; 2. See the person, not the illness; 3. Take action on mental-health issues.

    Every government official from Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue has signed the StigmaFree Pledge. Now is the time for the rest of us in the community to show our support. I have joined The Chamber of Hailey & Wood River Valley board, to collaborate with our business community to expand our campaign into the commercial and professional realm.  We are also working with a community task force, to give public presentations to recognize “the five signs” of emotional distress, so we can create a more caring and compassionate community and help those in need get connected to the resources in our community.

    Take the pledge to be StigmaFree and help us create the needed space for us to have these conversations. We all have ups and downs. It is time we normalize the conversation to support one another.


    Christina Cernansky is the executive director of NAMI Wood River Valley.