There are a fair number of illnesses and conditions who have overcome public stigma, such as epilepsy and leprosy. Attitudes toward mental illness have softened somewhat over time, but there is still much misunderstanding and fear surrounding those people who are diagnosed with a mental illness.
The misunderstanding of mental health issues by the general public isn't surprising; this is one area of medical science where there remain more questions than answers. The fear that people feel about those with mental illness is borne of the same misunderstandings and misinformation that used to surround minority groups of people.
With understanding often comes acceptance, so it is understanding of mental health conditions that we must seek.
The New York Times is in the midst of a series of articles about people with major mental illness diagnoses. The articles provide insight from these people who have come forward to share their experiences in a positive light.
There is no better way to overcome stereotypes and misunderstanding than to hear information straight from those who know mental illness best -- and that would be those who are living their lives with the conditions.
What word comes to mind first when you think of mental illness?