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Understanding Mental Illness

The Surgeon General's report makes two basic points. Mental illness is a national crisis and our treatment of the mentally ill is a national disgrace.
-Senator Edward M. Kennedy (May, 2000)

Voices of Recovery

The Mental Illness Education Project produces videotapes about people whose lives have been touched by mental illness. Our videotapes present genuine and touching portrayals of individuals with mental illness in the context of their whole lives-personal and family relationships, communities, treatment, recovery, and work.

Participants in the tapes include people with psychiatric disabilities, other experts in the field of mental health, family members, treatment providers, advocates, and employers. The tapes offer a balanced view of individuals with mental illness as well as authentic visions of recovery. We are opening hearts and minds and transforming individual attitudes. We want, above all to be helpful and hopeful. The videos we produce are designed to stimulate productive discussions among all kinds of groups, and are known for their uncompromising professional quality.

In the past six years we have sold an extraordinary 12,000 videotapes, and each of our productions, from the earliest to the most recent, continues to be in demand.

Our Audiences

People with psychiatric disabilities need to know they are not alone and that others with the same diagnosis have recovered their hopes and their lives. They need to know that they can recover their identity as people.

Mental health professionals need to learn more about the options available to them in helping people with psychiatric disabilities -what's possible and what works. They need to develop the empathy that only comes from more contact with their clients as people.

Learning about successful and cost-effective mental health programs will improve the nation's mental health care and at the same time save money.

Families are a major support for their mentally ill relative, but they are often excluded from the health-care process, and their concerns are frequently ignored. Alienated from their relative, they feel guilty, stigmatized and terrified. With better understanding of the illness and the recovery process, family members become knowledgeable, confident, and effective members of the treatment team.

Special audiences, such as legislators, employers, educators and health administrators, should know much more about the possibilities and requirements of good mental health care. Informed decision-makers will allocate money, personnel and other resources more effectively, improving care as well as saving tax dollars.

The general public needs a much greater sense that people with psychiatric disabilities are first of all people like the rest of us. The public needs to know more about the experience of mental illness, as well as what steps to take to help someone who is ill.

Better understanding of the nature of mental illness will reduce the destructive effects of stigma at every level. Above all, the general public needs a restored sense of empathy and community with those who are labeled psychiatrically disabled.

The Problem

In the U.S. alone, mental illness impacts 1 in 4 families. Schizophrenia, manic depression (bipolar disorder), other anxiety disorders, or severe depression affect 12 to 16 million Americans. In the United States, mental illness is the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality, and the cost of mental health problems is estimated to be a staggering $20 billion per year.

Stigma and fear compound the already difficult and complex problems faced by people who are ill and those who support them-their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and service providers. Stigma, attitudes of fear, and discrimination against those with psychiatric disabilities have their roots in lack of information and lack of understanding-exactly the areas the Project addresses.

Our Response

In a time of decreasing funding for psychiatric resources and an increasing movement toward self-help, our videotapes are being used more and more by institutions, professionals, consumers and family members. They are used extensively for training by hospitals, mental health centers, universities, and advocacy organizations. We are well-known among professional and consumer organizations.

Each of us at the Mental Illness Education Project-from our board of advisors, to the participants in our videos, to our staff-has had direct, personal experience with mental illness. All of us are passionately committed and uniquely qualified to create the enduring portrayals that set us apart.

No one else is doing what we are doing.

We are embarking on an enormous undertaking. It is an area of great need. We invite you to join our effort--we heartily welcome your inquiries, your suggestions and your financial support.

Incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in 1990, The Mental Illness Education Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, EIN 22-3075597. All contributions are tax-deductible.

I would like to make a contribution to The Mental Illness Education Project. Please print this form and enclose it with your check.

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