NewswireToday - /newswire/ -
San Francisco, CA, United States, 2007/05/05 - Living with mental illness is more difficult when the mentally ill person faces stigma in their community or within their family. Tom Roberts has bipolar disorder and speaks about his experience in managing his illness.
A San Francisco man speaks out about stigma against the mentally ill in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre and about ways he has found that the mentally ill can manage their lives with community and family support.
Tom Roberts, 56, is a former broadcast journalist, college professor and technical writer. He is also mentally ill. Roberts has bipolar disorder, a genetic mental illness that devastated his family.
“We are all shocked by the horrifying massacre of 32 Virginia Tech students by Seung-Hui Cho,” Roberts said. “The shock has led to a media frenzy that reinforces a belief in the long hypothesized link between acts of violence and mental illness,” he said.
“The mentally ill, in fact, are more likely to be victims rather than the perpetrators of violence—often this violence is aimed at themselves in the form of suicide or self-mutilation,” he explained.
“Stigma often is a roadblock for treatment for the more than 54 million Americans, one in 5, according to the National Institute on Mental Health, who suffer from a mental disorder in any given year. Of that number, many don’t seek treatment, at a time when awareness about mental illness has grown,” Roberts said.
“I think something President Clinton once said reflecting on the suicide of Vince Foster, his childhood friend who later became his Deputy White House Counsel, speaks to our dilemma today” Roberts said. ‘Mental illness,” Mr. Clinton said, “is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.’”
Roberts speaks on behalf of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the nation’s leading patient-directed organization focusing on the most prevalent mental illnesses: depression and bipolar disorder. His goal is to educate families and employers of the mentally ill that the illness is treatable, although few recover completely. His talk is about his personal experience with bipolar disorder in a speech he calls “Chewing through the Straps: Living with Mental Illness!” (Tom Roberts is a professional speaker and actor. He can be reached via email).