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Town hall meeting to combat mental illness stigma

For many people, mental illness carries a stigma that prevents many suffering from some form from seeking out the help they need.

The Lake County Local Mental Health Task Force formed in 2013 with the mission to "advocate for all Lake County residents such programs and services that promote mental health wellness," according to the Lake County website.

The group will hold a town hall meeting to combat the stigma associated with mental illness at 1 p.m. Oct. 20 in the Two Harbors High School cafeteria. The goal of the meeting is to help spread the word that those suffering from mental illness are not alone and many local resources are available to help and, most importantly, those people suffering from mental illness can and do recover, according to a press release from the task force.

"People don't want to identify themselves with a mental illness because they don't know what it is, they don't know where to go or what people will think," task force member Dean Rudloff said. "It's not like a physical problem like a broken arm, in that case you know what to expect. You know that the hospital is there for you to help you handle it."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 18 percent, or nearly one in five adults in the United States suffer from an array of diagnosable mental disorders ranging from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and schizophrenia to addictions and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. What's more, according to Rudloff, more than 90 percent of people committing suicide suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.

The rural nature of Lake County makes it difficult to assess the rates of mental illness in the area, but Rudloff thinks there are many people living and suffering with mental illness but are not seeking help because of the stigma.

"We believe there are many people that are undiagnosed possibly because they want to hide and not be found out, which can be part of the mental illness as well," he said.

At the town hall meeting, attendees will screen the documentary "No Kidding, Me Too," that shines a light on six different mental disorders, the struggles people faced in getting help, including self-medicating and other destructive behaviors, and the encouragement they found when they discovered they were not alone and sought help to begin recovery.

Rudloff believes even the word "illness" contributes to the stigma and hopes the task force can change the focus from illness to mental health.

"There is a stigma or fear connected with mental illness and our task is to advocate for all Lake County residents to promote mental health wellness," he said. "We are moving beyond mental illness. That word carries a stigma too. It is our hope to promote mental health wellness at our program."

Rudloff said all are welcome at the town hall, but because of the frank discussion and graphic nature of the documentary, he asks that children under 16 be accompanied by an adult.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Silver Bay City Council and high school sports in Lake County. 

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