Addressing Stigma

West Allegheny High School Students Do Their Part
to Address the Stigma of Mental Illness

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that mental illness affects 1 in 5 adults in the United States. Unfortunately, the widespread stigma associated with mental disorders prevents many from seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Students from West Allegheny High School near Pittsburgh are doing their part to help address the problem of stigma.  As part of their senior project, Mikayla Bogaski, Derek Clontz, Katie Hannan along with a team of other students chose to focus on the topic of the stigma surrounding mental illness.  In addition to researching and preparing a report on the subject, the students organized a charity golf outing that raised $5,000 to support efforts to increase awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma of seeking help. 

"We wanted to shed light on a subject that may seem taboo to a lot of people," said Mikayla Bogaski. "We chose this issue because it is not only relevant to high school students, but people of all ages."

Mikayla, Derek and Katie presented a check to Department of Psychiatry Chairman Dr. David Lewis and psychosis researcher and faculty member Dr. Peter Bachman at a special ceremony on June 6, 2016 at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC. Dr. Bachman will be working closely with Dr. Lewis on efforts to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health disorders.  

"The exceptional energy and dedicated determination of Mikayla, Derek and Katie have brought much needed attention to the important topic of the unwarranted stigma frequently associated with mental illness," commented Dr. Lewis. "Their fund-raising efforts have had a very positive impact on those who have heard of their activities, will help fuel our own efforts to eliminate stigma especially among teens and young adults, and serve as an inspiration to all of us."

We appreciate the support of these dedicated students and those who participated in the golf outing.  Their gift will play an important role in our ongoing efforts to better understand mental illness and encourage individuals to seek care.