Shifting the Conversation about Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders and Creating a Community of Support

A Forum hosted by William James College: 

Prejudicial beliefs and attitudes associated with mental illness and substance use disorders are significant barriers to care.

The Forum covered institutional, public and personal stigma; elucidated the factors that influence negative perceptions of mental illness and substance use disorders; highlighted the impact of stigma; and explored strategies for change.

Panel discussions included: community leaders sharing their personal journeys of stigma; first-responders; and business leaders. The Forum provided ample time for networking and interacting with individuals from various agencies and businesses that address stigma.

Brian Kelleher, Design Director WCVB Channel 5

Fighting the Prejudicial Beliefs against Mental and Substance Use Disorders

  • One in four Americans will develop a mental health problem or will misuse alcohol or drugs during their lifetime

  • More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than in motor vehicle crashes. Yet 89 percent of individuals estimated to be in need of treatment for a substance use disorder do not receive services

  • Only 25 percent of people with a psychological condition feel that others are understanding or compassionate about their illness

  • Eight in 10 workers say shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment for their mental illness

 Forum Goals

1. Create a public-private partnership that will shepherd an anti-stigma movement.

2. Shift the conversation about mental illness and substance use disorder.

3. Mobilize communities of support for those with substance use disorders and mental illness who are affected by stigma.


“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation about illnesses that affect not only individuals, but their families as well.”
― Glenn Close


"The opioid crisis is the most pressing issue of our time and affects every part of our community. It requires an all hands on deck approach. We all have a role to play in putting an end to this epidemic."

― Michael Botticelli, 

President Obama's former Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and recently announced Executive Director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center


"Part of the GE Foundation's mission is to inspire others to act. Combatting stigma to help fight the opioid epidemic is something that can start with each one of us. Speak out, speak up and speak the right words that allow patients and families to find and receive the treatment they need. The more we reduce the stigma of substance use disorders, the easier it will be to combat it."

Ann R. Klee, President, GE Foundation


“Drug overdoses represent a public health crisis that is as urgent as any we have ever confronted in New England. Addiction is a disease, but recovery is possible. We must continue to work together to remove barriers to effective treatment and save lives.”

― Governor Gina Raimondo


“Each one of us has an intimate experience with drug abuse and/or mental illness. We own this problem. Thank you for being part of the solution.”

― Nicholas Covino, President, William James College