End the mental-health stigma

Jeff vonKaenel

It was Logan Noone’s 24th birthday. But he was the one giving away presents as he spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the annual National Alliance on Mental Illness walk in Sacramento’s Land Park. He told us how, a few years earlier, he had a psychotic break and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After he received treatment, his doctors suggested that he only reveal this information on a need-to-know basis.

These doctors see the stigma of mental illness every day. They fear that patients who are open about their illness will not only have to deal with the challenges of their illness, but will also face reactions, such as vicious gossip and possible rejection.

They know that some employers would rather walk barefoot over glass than to hire someone who has bipolar disorder.

Trying to protect Logan, the doctors suggested that he divide his world into two: The majority who did not need to know about his condition and the very few that did.

Keeping his condition a secret made Logan feel ashamed and isolated. One member of his family who had suffered from bipolar disorder had committed suicide. He feared that this might be his future as well. He felt depressed and gained weight.

When his job transferred him from Massachusetts to Sacramento, he decided to ignore the doctors’ advice. He told his new roommates here, whom he had met on Craigslist, that he had bipolar disorder. He told them about what he was doing to treat it and how they could help. To Logan’s relief, they accepted him. Their perspective was that everyone has problems, and together, they could help each other.

Empowered, Logan started to feel better about himself. He recorded a YouTube video to tell his story. He hoped to inspire those with mental illness to get treatment and to connect with others in the mental-illness community.

If you missed him at the NAMIWalk in April, his inspiring video is worth watching (see column note for link).

His story was a present of hope, respect and dignity, wrapped up for us all with a nice bow.

It was not so long ago that women would keep their breast cancer a secret. Today, they wear pink ribbons.

The times, they are a-changing. And there will be a time in the not-so-distant future that a person’s mental illness will be accepted like any other illness. And 24-year-old Logan Noone is one of the reasons why that day will come sooner rather than later.

Logan Noone, I’d like to thank you for the inspiration.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.