Standing Up to the Stigma

Today’s guest blog comes to us from Dale Parsons, Director of Therapy Services for St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center. St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center, part of Steward Health Care, the largest private hospital operator in the United States, is a 124-bed behavioral health facility located on the campus of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix, with outpatient centers in the East Valley and northwest Phoenix. For more than 45 years, St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center has been serving the mental health and substance abuse needs of the community with a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for children, teens, adults and seniors. St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center is an Official Healthcare Partner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. For more information, visit or call 1-800-821-4193.

Mental wellness is one of the most pressing health issues today. Yet despite high-profile advocacy from celebrities and influencers to health professionals and patients themselves, there still exists a tremendous stigma when it comes to admitting to needing and seeking help.

The state of mental health

Mental illness comes in many shapes and levels of severity. This largely invisible condition that touches one in five people affects more than 40 million Americans. In Arizona, more than five million people battle severe mental illness every day.

What these figures don’t share is the number of undiagnosed individuals struggling with mental wellness. Some may simply not know they are experiencing mental illness, while others ignore seeking help specifically because of the level of stigma and negativity associated with conditions that include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, psychosis and bipolar disorder, among many others.

Breaking down barriers is vital

So often, people – mothers, fathers, friends – ignore symptoms they or those around them face, and even hope they will sort themselves out. It’s more important than ever to become educated and aware of mental illness warning signs along with the tools for coping and treatment. Some warning signs include:

  • Marked personality changes, including changes in eating or sleeping patterns;
  • Excessive anxieties and inability to cope with problems or daily activities;
  • Extreme highs and lows with prolonged depression and apathy;
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs;
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behavior; and
  • Talk or thoughts about suicide or homicide (Seek immediate help).

Highly treatable

Despite the negative stigma, mental illness remains one of the most highly treatable conditions, especially when the plan includes love, support and acceptance from the individual’s innermost social circle.

Effective treatment plans need to be rooted in holistic approaches that provide individualized clinical care guaranteeing each person the opportunity to reach their maximal level of physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. This includes preserving the integrity of both the patient and family while furnishing a safe, therapeutic environment. This is the central cornerstone of care at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center in Phoenix.

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center offers individualized treatment plans on both an inpatient and outpatient basis, depending on need. The services are departmentalized and specialized to care for children, adolescents, adults and seniors and include access to a wide variety of specialists, including licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, licensed masters-level counselors/social workers, mental health technicians, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, registered nurses, case managers, and nutritionists. 

Beating the stigma

But while a variety of outcome-based treatments exist, stigma remains a significant roadblock to help. Breaking down these barriers comes with providing a safe, loving and accepting gateway to help, which includes:

  • Talking openly and honestly about mental health to bridge the gap;
  • Recognizing that maintaining mental health is just as important as maintaining good physical health;
  • Empowering people to seek help instead of shaming them;
  • Showing compassion and understanding to those battling mental illness; and
  • Speaking out and educate others against stigma.


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