H 52° L 46°
Cloudy | 14MPH

New Coalition Aims to Eliminate Stigma of Mental Illness One Story at a Time

May 4, 2014

MILWAUKEE, Wis – A new coalition, Wisconsin Initiative for Stigma Elimination, (WISE) is working to remove the stigma of mental illness, one story at a time. The group is doing so by uniting organizations and individuals around Wisconsin to do what it knows works best to eliminate stigma – support those who have found recovery to share their stories of hope.

According to Sue McKenzie, co-facilitator of WISE and co-director of Rogers InHealth, a coalition member, “May has been designated Mental Health Month, so it is the perfect time for us to unveil this new group that has grown to 25+ organizational partners in just 18 months and to discuss the power of sharing their mental health recovery stories with the residents of Wisconsin.”

The Prevalence of Mental Illness
It has been estimated that one in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experiences mental illness in a given year.

“Even though many know that mental illnesses are more common than we used to think, far too many continue to keep their challenges a secret, as if something to feel shame about. As a result, this stigma has led to further isolation and despair rather than early access to the many options available to support recovery and create hope.”

Cammy’s Story of Living with Bipolar Disorder
Cammy is one of the people who has shared her mental health journey with WISE. Growing up in the Fox River Valley, Cammy was suicidal in high school and spent half of her senior year in the hospital. She says she eventually started cutting herself as a way to feel and see real pain instead of keeping it inside. However, that only made her situation worse.

Eventually she was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, and learned through the help of an art therapist how to cope and use more constructive behaviors to deal with her challenges.

According to Cammy, “My art therapist saved my life and showed me a positive way to release my feelings through art. She and my psychiatrist challenged me to come up with positive solutions to my problems, rather than providing me with all of the answers.”

“I learned that I enjoy art, I took art classes and I realized that I would much rather be recognized for my artwork than for negative behavior.”

Cammy says she has also learned mindfulness to cope with bipolar disorder, to breathe deeply and give herself positive affirmations. In addition, she now volunteers every two weeks at a secure detention center in Milwaukee, teaching art to men challenged by mental illness and incarcerated.

“It gives me a sense of purpose and a reason to get up in the morning,” Cammy adds. “I like giving back to the community.”

To view the video discussing Cammy’s mental health journey please visit

How Sharing Stories Helps
Julianne Carbin, Executive Director of NAMI Wisconsin, a WISE partner, highlights that when people with mental health issues share their stories, it can be empowering and actually increase one’s self-esteem. It also promotes understanding, presents opportunities for support, assistance, and reasonable accommodations, or can simply relieve the stress and guilt connected to keeping a secret.

Cammy states the decision to go public with her story was difficult, but that ultimately it was liberating to give insight and understanding to people living with or affected by others with bipolar.

“It also felt great to hear my mom say she was proud of me for sharing my story after she viewed my video.”

McKenzie adds that we all need to work together to eliminate stigma.

“Start by seeking out people with lived mental health experiences and listen to their stories. Reinforce and support their resilience and recovery.”

“Wear lime green, the color designated for mental health awareness, and be prepared to share recovery stories where you work or at the school you attend, and in the civic and religious organizations you belong to.”

“Together we can make a difference and eliminate the stigma that people have been living with for far too long.”

WISE is co-facilitated by Sue McKenzie and Suzette Urbashich, co-directors of Rogers InHealth. Members include: Access to Independence; Care Connections – Waukesha; Center for Suicide Awareness; COPE Services - Ozaukee County; Dry Hootch; Faith Partnership Network; Grassroots Empowerment Project; LaCrosse Mental Health Coalition; Latino Health Coalition; Marian University; MHA Wisconsin; Milwaukee Center for Independence; Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division; NAMI WI and multiple local affiliates; North East WI Mental Health Connection; OCD Wisconsin, affiliate of IOCDF-International OCD Foundation; Prevent Suicide WI and multiple local affiliates; Racine Collaborative for Children’s Mental Health; Rogers InHealth of Rogers Behavioral Health System; University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Madison, and Eau Claire ; Walker's Point Clinic and Core El Centro; WI Certified Peer Specialist Network; WI Department of Health Services; WI Family Ties; WI Hospital Association; and Wisconsin United for Mental Health.

For more information on WISE visit To view more stories visit: . To discuss how your workplace, school, congregation or you can become a potential partner or to learn how you can share your story with WISE, please contact Sue McKenzie at or 414-759-3374.

This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Suburban News Roundup

E-mail Newsletter

Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.

Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter
Get the Newsletter!

Login or Register to manage all your newsletter preferences.

Community Watch

» Wauwatosa fall leaf collection in progress 09:48 AM

» Wauwatosa's Friends of Center Street Park to hold Fall Fest Oct. 17 10/12

» Thousands of items on sale at Wauwatosa Public Library in late October 10/9

» Wauwatosa School District to host 'Autism Insights and Strategies' 10/9

» Updated week eight rankings of area prep football teams and players 10/9

» Public invited to name baby giraffe at Milwaukee Co. Zoo 10/9

» Large crowd in Wauwatosa gymnasium discusses coyote attacks, seeks answers Updated:  10/8

» Wauwatosa West girls volleyball team bounces back for victory 10/7

» Wauwatosa East volleyball team wins thriller against Trojans 10/7

» Wauwatosa East soccer team ties second-ranked Cedarburg 10/7

» Wauwatosa West football team blanks Vikings, earns playoff spot 10/7

» Wauwatosa East boys cross country team finished second at the Purgold Invite 10/7

» Wauwatosa East boys volleyball team beats Cedarburg 10/7

» Wauwatosa East, West girls cross-country teams finish third, fourth at Purgold Invitational 10/7

» Wauwatosa West girls tennis finishes second in Woodland Tennis Tournament 10/7

» Public invited to Wauwatosa Village streetscape workshop 10/6

» Bedbugs found in Wauwatosa juvenile court center Updated:  10/6

» Nordstrom Mayfair announces gala, late-night party fundraising events 10/6

» Aurora plans $35 million upgrade to psychiatric hospital in Tosa Updated:  10/2

» Mayfair mall, Susan G. Komen host series of breast cancer events 10/2

» Wauwatosa schools celebrate Walk to School Day on Oct. 7 10/2

» Initial Reaction Podcast: Is Aaron Rodgers really the best QB in football? 10/1

» Wauwatosa West football whips Pius XI in wild scoring affair 9/29

» Tosa West boys split two matches 9/29

» East kickers tie, lose, win during busy week 9/29

View All Posts Got a tip? Welcome rss



Hidden Tosa


"Hidden Tosa" is a semi-regular feature where reporters Rory Linnane or Rachel Minske explore the closed down and closed off parts of Wauwatosa.


Local Business Directory