Ending the Silence About Mental Illness (part 1)

with Karen Gerndt of the National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Health

Twenty percent of young people ages thirteen to eighteen have a mental health condition.  And while mental illness is pervasive in our society, the stigma that surrounds it discourages people from seeking help.

Karen Gerndt of the National Alliance on Mental Illness discusses initiatives intended to educate and start conversations between students, within families, with teachers and others.  See more in part 2 of Ending the Silence About Mental Illness.

Interview recorded June 14, 2017.  Hosted by Robert Traynham.  Part 1 of 2.

Read a partial transcript of this interview below:

Traynham: Mental illness is pervasive in American society. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by the age of 14. And while the sooner a person gets help, the better their outlook for recovery, the public stigma attached to mental illness is a barrier that prevents many from seeking help. Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Comcast Newsmakers.” Im Robert Traynham. My guest is Karen Gerndt of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Karen, welcome to the program.

Gerndt: Thanks for having me.

Traynham: What a somber topic to talk about, but its important to talk about this because, as I mentioned a few moments ago, there is a stigma when it comes to mental illness. How prevalent is this in the teen community?

Gerndt: Its very prevalent because of the stresses and the growth that teens are going through at the time. As you mentioned, 50% of all symptoms start showing by the age of…

Traynham: 14.

Gerndt: …14 75% by the age of 24. So it is very important that we reach these young people and young adults.

Traynham: You know, its interesting. I hearken back to when I was 14, Karen, and Im not sure my parents would even know what the symptoms would be. Because, at 14, as a boy — running around, bouncing off walls, and just high energy. I guess my question would be is, do many parents know? Or, frankly, do any teens know, at the age of 14, that perhaps maybe there might be something that might be a little bit different?

Gerndt: And thats one of the things that weve been trying to do from NAMIs point of view, is to educate people on what those warning signs are. Theres 10 very common warning signs that are a little more than just a boy running around and being a boy. And its two weeks of really not feeling well, being sad. Its not just the little sadness. Its something thats gonna be over a period of time.

Traynham: So, Karen, I guess going back to my original question — if Im a parent or a loved one and I perhaps maybe feel something might be off with my child, where can I go to get some information? Who can I talk to?

Gerndt: Sure. First place you want to go is your pediatrician. That starts there. Definitely give NAMI a call. We have a help line. Our website is full of all the information that you would need. We also have local chapters that offer free classes and presentations that are available for the gamut of individuals as theyre seeking help.

Traynham: And lets say Im a teenager. Lets say Im 13 — doesnt matter — 13, 14, 15 years old, and Im feeling a certain way, but perhaps I may not have parents around. Perhaps I dont have the relationship with my parents that maybe you and I had. Where can I go for some information confidentially?

Gerndt: Sure. Again, you can go to nami.org, but you also want to go to your school counselor and talk to them and share with a trusted adult. And one of our programs, called NAMI Ending the Silence, really teaches teens how to identify either for themselves or for a friend and really get to that trusted adult so that they can get help and get that sooner. Because research is showing us, the sooner we have treatment, the better the outcomes are gonna be long-term.