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Stigma and unintended consequences

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  • Written By: Jeff Rice, BHS Director
Stigma and unintended consequences

The article below is part of an educational series to help the community better understand Behavioral Health Services (BHS) available to them in Gillette, Wyoming.

I have worked all over the country. Traveling and adjusting to the various cultures has become a way of life for me. Having been in the mental health industry for over 35 years, I have been dismayed at how consistent the stigma of mental illness is. You have the corporate America, with various industries dominating the geographical areas even to the point of stereo-typing people that live there:

  • Steel workers in the Mid-East
  • hoity-toity political types in the East
  • Automotive workers in the Mid-West
  • Older folks in the South
  • Hippie Socially Liberal in the far West
  • and conservative ranchers in the North West.

All these areas come with some common denominators, but for the most part they are separate and all feel that recovering from a mental disorder is a matter of how strong willed the individual is. That thinking is most pre-dominated here in the North West.

Imagine suggesting to someone that they needed to set their own broken arm (I have used this example before). In doing so there is an infection that sets in and the person dies. Would you feel somewhat responsible? Or, after someone you love has their appendix burst, and you refuse to take them to the hospital and they die, how would you feel?

But—and this happens—someone comes to you and confesses that they have been feeling down or depressed lately, maybe that things would be better without them around. Too often there is a reaction that just might be a little like avoidance, “What am I supposed to do about it?” Maybe the topic will go away. Right?

Out here, though there are many positives, we are at a bit of disadvantage in some ways. The winters are long. It is cold. There is a real possibility that if we get enough snow we would not have much interaction with others. Stuff happens in that environment. Not to mention that everything is far away from wherever you are, even in good weather. Isolation.

Listen. Mental illness is not to be dismissed. It can and will kill people you love if not properly treated.

So, take the few minutes of your busy day and help your friend or family member get connected with a professional. If there is reluctance calling us at Behavioral Health Services, call us anyway, 307.688.5000. We have many different referral professionals that we could give you to call.

And most of all, do not feel this is simply a strength of will situation. You could save some one’s life.

Jeff Rice is the director of Behavioral Health Services at Campbell County Memorial Hospital. BHS provides professional mental health and substance abuse services to the community through prevention, education, advocacy and treatment for all ages in the community. Appointments are available Monday–Friday from 8 am–5 pm. Call 307.688.5000. Learn more at

  • Category: Behavioral Health Services, Wellness