Stigma and Misinformation May Keep Many with Mental Illnesses From Getting the Help They Need {Interview}

Stigma and Misinformation May Keep Many with Mental Illnesses From Getting the Help They Need {Interview}


Less than Half of Americans Living with Mental Illnesses Get Treatment1


When you get sick, you think nothing of going to the doctor. But it’s a different story for those experiencing mental illnesses. Approximately 45 million adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness1, but less than half (43%) will actually receive treatment1. That’s a lot of folks who are doing without the help they need. A new Harris Poll survey of 2,000 American adults reveals that part of the problem could be the stigma associated with mental illnesses.

Among the survey findings:

  • 92% believe there is stigma in our society against those with mental illnesses
  • 86% say psychological factors, like character flaws and weakness, play a role in mental illnesses
  • 81% attribute stigma to lack of understanding, while 52% say it is because of how mental illnesses are portrayed in popular culture
  • 76% feel people may be ashamed to get help because of stigma
  • 34% do not feel comfortable discussing mental health issues with family and friends
  • While 68% of Americans know someone with a mental illness, 62% of them say they don’t know how to help their loved ones and that their loved one is/has been afraid to seek treatment

A new effort hopes to combat stigma by harnessing the power of art to increase understanding and open a dialogue about mental illnesses. Champions of Science: The Art of Ending Stigma, is a global project that encourages people to share artistic expressions about mental illnesses to help overcome stigma and build greater empathy and understanding. It also seeks to raise awareness of the biological basis of these diseases and scientific insights into mental illnesses.

Join me in a recent interview with Adam Savitz, MD, PhD, a Harvard trained psychiatrist and senior director of clinical research in neuroscience at Janssen, and Mackenzie Drazan a mental health advocate who lost her sister to suicide because of her battle with depression, as they discuss the critical need to end the stigma and overcome the obstacles that are preventing people with mental illnesses from seeking the support they need.

See then entire interview here:

For more information, go to


Adam Savitz, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior Director, Clinical Research, Janssen Neuroscience

Adam Savitz, M.D., Ph.D., is senior director of Clinical Research at Janssen Research & Development, L.L.C.

Dr. Savitz joined Janssen in April 2011, working on several programs focused on schizophrenia and the execution of successful drug approvals in the U.S., EU and other markets. Additionally, he has been involved in collaborations examining the genetics, symptoms and improvements through the use of psychiatric medications to treat schizophrenia. Currently, he is a clinical lead for an investigational compound for major depression and insomnia.

Prior to joining Janssen, he worked at Weill Cornell Medical College as an assistant professor of psychiatry. During his time at Weill Cornell, he led the Second Chance Program, a specialized inpatient psychiatric program for chronically institutionalized patients living with mental illnesses. Dr. Savitz was the first holder of the Peter Stokes Clinical Scholar in Neurobiology, an endowed position for junior faculty, and was the Physician of the Year in 2008 at the Westchester Division.

He says, “As a psychiatrist, I have seen firsthand how stigma can impact people living with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, all too often it can keep them from seeking the help they need when symptoms arise or lead to them discontinuing with their treatment. The truth is that mental illnesses are biologically based, like all other diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease. It’s encouraging to see the great advancements scientists are making to uncover the mysteries of the brain, reinforcing the idea that people living with mental illnesses should be treated no differently than people struggling with any other serious illnesses.”

Dr. Savitz received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University followed by an M.D. and Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the School of Medicine at UCLA. After graduating from UCLA, he pursued training in psychiatry as a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Savitz is excited to be part of the Champions of Science: Art of Ending Stigma project to help educate people about the science behind mental illnesses to increase understanding and foster compassion.


Mackenzie Drazan, TEAM (Teaching Everyone About Mental Health)

Mental Health Advocate

Mackenzie Drazan is the executive director of TEAM, a non-profit organization that provides information and resources for friends and family members of those struggling with a mental health condition, empowering them to take action to help their loved ones. Drazan lost her sister to suicide in October 2014. She says that she had some misperceptions about mental illnesses prior to her family’s tragedy and did not have the tools to help her. She now understands that mental illnesses are just like any other illnesses and has made it her mission to educate people about them to help combat stigma.

In the spirit of providing resources for people living with mental illnesses and their family and friends, Drazan has also created a venue for peer-to-peer education where people can use storytelling to share their own experiences with mental health issues – whether it be how mental Illnesses impacted them, a loved one, or both – and provide suggestions on ways people could help someone in their same situation.

She says, “Statistically speaking, everyone knows someone who is struggling with mental health, but most people don’t know how to support this person. This fear of not knowing what to say or do has resulted in people being afraid to talk about mental health. Art, including storytelling, allows us to break through these taboo topics and creates a new dialogue. Art is universally appreciated and understood, and thus, creates a common language to help teach communities how people can better support one another.”

Drazan, a recent graduate of Duke University and Woodside, CA resident, is proud to be part of the Champions of Science: Art of Ending Stigma project to help elevate the discussion around mental illnesses and encourage people to join the effort in breaking down stigma and discrimination.

*Interview is courtesy: Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson


Cynthia Tait

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