By Amanda Kearney-Smith

Last week we discussed the acronym U.N.I.T.E ( as a campaign to end stigma that started in Canada. 

The “U” stands for “understand” and so this blog focuses on using knowledge as a powerful tool for breaking down stigma.

When it comes to (well a lot of things) stigma – knowledge is a powerful tool. As a mechanism to break down the walls created by misinformation – facts about mental health can be useful. A very common statistic that people in the advocacy world use is – 1 in 5 people experience a mental health issue in any given year – that’s 43 million Americans¹.

stack of booksMost people don’t realize how prevalent mental health conditions are and using this statement can help add perspective. Once in a legislative hearing I literally had a local senator say “I’ve never known anyone who had a mental illness”. I was so surprised by this comment – it really woke me up to the fact that people are misinformed!

There are some good reputable websites out there with statistics you can use, here are a few:

National Institute on Mental Health    (NIMH)

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration   (SAMHSA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness    (NAMI)

World Health Organization (WHO)

What is even more impactful than statistics are personal stories!!! Facts and figures are useful, but even more important are real stories from people who live with mental health issues. Check out week four’s blog for more on how you can create a “recovery story” from your own experiences!


UNITE Against Stigma Week One: Knowledge Really is Power
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Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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