A new campaign called "Make It OK" is encouraging Minnesotans to talk more openly about mental illness.
The campaign aims to de-stigmatize mental health conditions so people will be more willing to seek out the care that they need.
The project was launched by the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, HealthPartners and Regions Hospital in St. Paul. HealthPartners President and CEO Mary Brainerd, who appeared on The Daily Circuit Tuesday, said both society and the health care system need to treat people with mental illness with greater understanding.
"Small things that start to indicate whatever illness you're experiencing, we support you, we want you to get better," Brainerd said. "Doing just the same kinds of things for people with mental illness as we do for those experiencing other kinds of illness."
For example, Brainerd said people who are hospitalized for mental illness generally don't get cards and "Get Well" wishes. She said that's very different from what occurs in the rest of the hospital and could be easily remedied through greater awareness.
Mental illness is something many people are still uncomfortable talking about — like cancer was in the 1960s, Brainerd said.
"We think that with many chronic illnesses and cancer is only one, epilepsy is another, there are many conditions that now we talk about openly and where care has actually improved," she said. "But mental illness is not one of those at this point."
Brainerd said some studies show that on average people with mental illnesses delay care for 10 years due to stigma.