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World Mental Health Day: It's time to end the stigma

"Mental health is just as important as your physical health," NAMI of Greater Toledo director Robin Isenberg said.

TOLEDO, Ohio — "We think that mental illness should be a conversation and a topic we're talking about 365 days a year."

That's a sentiment mental health advocates and workers have been pushing for years. Mental health affects so many but too many are silent on the issue.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 40 percent of Americans reported struggling with mental health in June because of the pandemic.

"Mental health is just as important as your physical health," said NAMI of Greater Toledo director Robin Isenberh.

Awareness for mental health continues to rise each year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans suffer from a diagnosed mental disorder, yet a stigma still remains.

"Education is really the key to getting rid of that misunderstanding and eliminating that discrimination," added Isenberg.

She said people have to understand mental health conditions are the same as physical ones like diabetes or heart disease, adding younger people are leading the charge on this issue.

"You guys seem to be much more open to talking about this," she said, "and supporting one another than somebody in my generation did."

"Having the willingness to have those conversations is like the first step to destigmatize it," young adult Meridith Huckler said.

We stopped in Wildwood Metropark to see how people feel about mental health.

"I think it's good to teach people about awareness," said Ryan Davenport, "just so people understand other people and where they're coming from."

"It's still an area especially when you talk about healthcare that needs more attention I believe," said local nurse Mike Tucker.

Tucker said there has been a push to focus more on the mental health of patients.

"From a hospital admissions standpoint, it's a part of the admission criteria that we ask mental health questions," he said, "and identify them quicker and I think that's a nice important step."

Now, the focus is even extending to the workplace. 

"We take sick days for physical health but not for mental health," added Huckler, "so I think creating those days might be helpful."

Isenberg stressed it takes generations to remove a stigma but the one around mental health is gradually getting better.

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