The Mission of The Women's Initiative is to provide effective counseling services, social support and education to empower women to transform challenging life situations into opportunities for renewed well-being and personal growth.
The Women’s Initiative is a leader in providing innovative, effective evidence-based mental health care to women, regardless of their financial means.
We believe every woman has a natural capacity for healing that once uncovered and directed results in better mental and physical health. We believe it is critical to address each woman’s unique emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
We will provide a variety of services that promote a higher quality of life for women facing stressful life situations. We expect that women receiving our services will report that they have successfully:
- clarified personal values, needs, and goals
- built on personal strengths and resources to meet needs and achieve goals
- mastered skills that promote restorative relaxation, calm and confidence
- initiated life changes that lead to reduced stress and greater well being
Mental Health in the News
Mary Beth Blackwell Chapman is a former Charlottesville resident who now resides in Forsyth County, North Carolina. Her article for the Winston Salem Journal is reprinted here with permission from the author. For more about Mary Beth, you may visit her website: www.maryblackwellchapman.com
Over 20 years ago I wrote an article [for the Winston Salem Journal] reminding readers that October is Mental Illness Awareness month, acquainting them with some pertinent facts about the prevalence and toll of mental illness in our country, and giving family, friends, caregivers some thoughts about ways to interact in a positive fashion with loved ones suffering a mental disorder. As someone who lives with a manageable unipolar disease, I am revisiting the issue of mental illness in our country these many years later.
Fifty million Americans, 25% of the adult population, experiences some form of mental illness requiring medication. This figure has increased in the last 20 years. It is equal to the percent of people diagnosed with cancer, those living with heart disease, those infected with HIV and AIDS, and those afflicted with diabetes COMBINED.
Suicide is the third most common cause of death in this country and the leading cause of death of young people worldwide. For half of those with mental illness, onset begins by age 15. Sufferers live shorter and less productive lives. Mental illness will probably affect someone you love in your lifetime.
Mental illness is invisible. It is invisible because it is unpleasant to mention and we are ignorant about it. We are embarrassed to talk about it and yet it is an illness of the brain, a body part just like the heart, or the lungs, but we know much less about it and it is much more complex. There should be no shame in acknowledging mental illness or in seeking treatment for it. Inaccurate perceptions about diseases of the brain lead to beliefs that someone suffering mental illness has a weak character, or is inevitably dangerous. The typical reaction encountered by someone with mental illness is fear and rejection. Some are denied housing, loans, health insurance and jobs. Society’s stigma and victims’ conditioning deepen the pain and retard healing. Whether someone suffers an acute encounter with a mental illness or deals daily with it, you feel the stigma, you fight the blows to your self-worth. Mental illness has been called the next chapter in Americaʼs civil rights movement. I fervently hope this will be the case. The stigma has not decreased much in the last 20 years.
So how do we respond to those suffering mental illness?
On a larger, social scale, we can support victims in their pursuit of housing and jobs.
We can respond openly to false statements and attitudes about mental illness. We can share our experiences in the mental health arena. Talking about our own experiences with mental struggles can be very difficult, but the more we do it, the more educated and comfortable people will become. You will also be giving others the opportunity to find compassion.
The most important way we can act out compassion for sufferers of mental illness is in our daily lives. The following is for the most part the advice I gave 20 years ago and it has not changed much.
- Acknowledge our presence, include us, respect us. We may not respond to your conversation, may not seem to notice any attention, may not be able to acknowledge you at all, and we may well not remember anything, but it matters deeply that we be drawn into the circle of life. Tell us you care and are sorry we feel bad.
- If the time seems right and we seem to be feeling somewhat able to talk, ask us how we’re feeling, but only do this if you’re prepared to hear what we say. It might be inappropriate or frightening. Remember that our illness is speaking.
- Make specific offers of help to our caregiver - drop dinner off, childcare, errands.
Taking the sufferer out to a meal or for a short walk can be helpful. Our caregivers are courageous people who have tremendous responsibility and are on the front lines of feeling our pain and suffering. They can use a break, perhaps a lunchtime with them when you can express sympathy and allow them to talk.
- Call to check in or write a two-sentence note.
Donʼt say the following:
“It will get better.” Glib prophecies of recovery do not feel good. Most mental illnesses can be managed, some can be cured, some reduced in their intensity and/or frequency. Some are more tenacious and resistant to treatment.