The Charles E. Kubly Foundation, a public charity in Milwaukee, was founded in 2003 after the death of Charlie Kubly by suicide. The foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations whose projects focus on improving the outlook for those with depression and preventing suicide. The foundation’s mission specifically is to 1) raise awareness of depression, 2) reduce the stigma associated with it, and 3) help people access resources in the community. Projects funded include conferences for professionals on suicide prevention, resource guides, public awareness campaigns, suicide prevention programs for high schools and outreach efforts to educate the general public about the warning signs and risk factors of depression and suicide.
The Charles E. Kubly Foundation is pleased to support this special edition of Academic Psychiatry on stigma and preparing psychiatry trainees to work more closely with families of people living with mental illness. The importance of family involvement in the recovery process for a person with mental illness cannot be denied. Families need education about mental illness so that they can understand the illness and support their ill family member. If the family can gain a level of comfort discussing the illness, they can assist their ill family member with medication management, developing coping skills and creating a plan should there be a crisis.
Recognizing that there is a problem and seeking help can be a frightening process for the individual and family. If the psychiatrist can take time with the patient and family and express genuine warmth, trust and rapport will be established. Psychiatrists can provide validation of feelings and reassurance that treatment can be successful. As documented in the articles included in this issue, mentally ill individuals and their families often experience shame about the illness and perceive that they will be discriminated against in the community. A psychiatrist’s demeanor and delivery of information can help prevent stigma. Empathy can go a long way toward helping the individual and family find hope in the recovery process.
Lastly, the psychiatrist can play an important role in helping families navigate the mental health system. At the time of accessing help, a family may feel overwhelmed and ill prepared to research their options. A few careful referrals to resources such as therapists, support groups and advocacy groups can help a family feel empowered. Learning that others are coping well with mental illness can provide an important boost.
While the issue of confidentiality is tricky, should patients allow their family members to participate in their treatment, families can provide a very valuable source of support. Psychiatrists, in working with family members, can engage an important system to enhance the recovery process.
Charles E. Kubly Foundation
The editors wish to express their gratitude to the Charles E. Kubly Foundation for its support of this special issue, the first of its kind in our Journal’s history. This collaboration signifies the importance of psychiatric education initiatives focusing on the impact of stigma and the role of families in the care of mental illness. We hope this partnership of a private foundation and an academic journal will inspire other such valuable efforts in the future.
Laura Weiss Roberts, M.D., M.A.
John H. Coverdale, M.D., M.Ed., FRANZCP