From Stigma to Hope

During the month of September 2011, KING, KONG, and Northwest Cable News partnered with Skagit Valley Hospital, the Skagit Valley Hospital Foundation, and community mental health partners to highlight the programs and services for those living with mental illness in our community as part of the statewide “From Stigma to Hope” campaign.

Click here to watch Skagit Valley Hospital's Director of Case Management Corin Schneider, Director of Skagit County Community Services Jennifer Kingsley and Anacortes resident Antonella Novi recent interview on King 5's  New Day Northwest as part of the “From Stigma to Hope” campaign.

Randy Revelle tells his personal story of fighting the stigma of mental illness.

Randy Revelle was 36 years old in 1977 and in the midst of a political campaign to retain his seat on the Seattle City Council when he experienced a mental health crisis.

Daily episodes and psychotic hallucinations, some causing him to act in threatening ways to his family and himself, went on for three weeks before he was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Revelle’s illness stabilized in two days with the medication lithium, which he continues to take today (Randy's story continued below.)

Watch Randy Revell's presentation, part of the Mental Health Symposium - From Stigma to Hope held at McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon, WA on September 19, 2011.

Click below to watch Randy Revelle's recent interview on King 5's  New Day Northwest as part of the “From Stigma to Hope” campaign:

New Day Interview with Randy Revelle, part I
New Day Interview with Randy Revell, part II

Revelle won the election in 1977, went on to serve as King County Executive, has spent the past 16 years as an executive with the Washington State Hospital Association and, in what has become his most important role, is a nationally recognized advocate to remove the stigma surrounding people living with mental illness and bring parity to insurance coverage for mental health care.

“For 33 years, I have been living with a mental illness,” Revelle said. “It took two months to diagnose and treat my illness, but it took more than four years to overcome the stigma.”

Revelle, who is among about 5.7 million adults in the United States with bipolar disorder, brought his compelling personal story and message of advocacy to Mount Vernon on September 19 at McIntyre Hall. An engaging speaker, Revelle is direct, honest, and passionate about sharing his story as a way to help others and promote awareness about mental illness.

“I have two fundamental lessons based on my own experience with mental illness for the past 33 years and my father’s advice: Never be ashamed of mental illness and don’t hide it, always tell the truth,” he said.

Those strategies have proven helpful in Revelle overcoming the stigma of mental illness, all the while working in a highly public work environment as an elected official and public policy advocate. Too often, people see those living with mental illness as having personal weaknesses or flaws, a pattern that is not exhibited with other chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease, he said.

“No one should be ashamed of having a mental illness,” Revelle emphasized. “We need to be open about it, discuss it, and support those living with mental illness.”

Recognizing the symptoms of mental illness is important, along with taking the proactive step of seeking professional help, Revelle said. Support from family, friends, and community is also a key to understanding, recovery, and advocacy.

How you can help people living with a mental illness

Randy Revelle, Senior Vice President of the Washington State Hospital Association, recommends five ways to make a difference in the life of people living with mental illness:

  • Help overcome the stigma by learning about mental illness and challenging the myths and stereotypes that misrepresent the illness;
  • Tell the truth about your own experience with mental illness, if any;
  • Avoid using derogatory, stereotypical, or stigmatizing language when discussing mental illness or describing people living with the illness;
  • Support mental health organizations with your time, talent, and treasure; and
  • Provide personal understanding and active support to people with a mental illness and their families. Learn to recognize the warning signs of the illness and encourage those who need help to seek appropriate diagnosis and treatment.