Last updated: May 05, 2008
No flowers, no cards, no calls
When Max Dine's wife had an operation, she got 50 get-well cards. When the retired oncologist from Phoenix was cycling through the agony of bipolar disorder, no one wrote or called him. "You lose friends because they don't know what's going on or don't want to associate with someone who's dealing with depression," he says. "With mental illness, a lot of the time they think you're faking it."
Devalued at Work
Hard to get time off for depression Watch video
Stigma against people with mental problems is baked into the health-care system, says John C. Norcross, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania. For the mentally ill, access to psychological care and payment issues are an ongoing struggle. "There's no parity with regular health insurance," he says, "and insurance companies permit so few visits per year [to a mental health provider]." He calls this disparate treatment "gross discrimination."
Though he is a mental health advocate, Corrigan encourages the mentally ill to carefully consider whether they want to "come out" to others. Once you are out it is hard to get back in, so you should test the waters. "You might say to somebody, 'Hey, did you see ER? Sally Field came out as bipolar. What did you think of that?' If they say, 'That's just political correctness, I hate those people,' then that is someone you should not tell."