We recently spoke with Bob Cannata, Sr. Vice President of Business Development and Community Crisis Services, at Spectrum Health.

Q: Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?

Spectrum Health is the premier provider of behavioral health services in the Western New York area since 1973. We began servicing people with mental illness at a time when the de-institutionalization was occurring in New York State. Many viewed mental illness from what they saw portrayed in the newspapers and television– and were shaped by the stories of only the most severe cases of mental illness. We recognized the need for individuals living with mental health challenges to be treated with compassion and dignity, and above all, that people are much more than their “diagnosis.” We partnered with many agencies over the years with similar visions and approaches to working with people living with mental health challenges and recognized the value of joining with others dedicated to helping people get the most satisfaction out of their lives. That’s why Spectrum Health joined the Coalition: to be in a collective of like-minded organizations that share our mission and values.

Q: How are people with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?

People unfamiliar with the many aspects of living with a mental health challenge often are wary of and intolerant of persons with mental health challenges. Many are looked down upon in many aspects of their lives, including their relationships with others. There remains a pervasive “…you’re just not trying hard enough!” or people are viewed as “weak” and incapable. Nothing could be further from the truth! So many people have shared their strength and success in their recovery stories!

Q: What impact is the Campaign having in the community?

It’s been exciting to see so many people participate in sending the anti-stigma message—which is really sending the message that people living with mental health challenges are seeking and achieving mental wellness just like everyone else! The campaign seeks to get others to be vocal about this and promotes “conversations” that decrease the misinformation that leads to discrimination. The campaign is also a wonderful way for those not currently living with mental health challenges to support others who are!

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