President’s Panel – Dr. Horowitz Leads NRCI Conference Discussion to #EndTheStigma on Mental Health

In recent years, the rallying cry to #EndTheStigma surrounding mental health has grown throughout the global community. TCS Education System’s President, Dr. Michael Horowitz, has been a lifelong advocate for mental health awareness and works closely with our community of colleges and universities within TCS Ed System to foster dialogue among students, professionals, and the general public. Last week, he moderated a panel focused on addressing the ways different cultures view mental illness at the 14th Annual Community Mental Health Conference, sponsored by the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute (NRCI) for Mental Health Education at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

The Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute was established by the Cohen family in memory of their daughter, Naomi Ruth Cohen. NRCI works to prevent others from suffering as she did and to overcome the stigma of mental illness. Funding is used to promote educational programs and to support organizations engaged in mental health illness research, education, self-help, anti-discrimination, and advocacy.

In this interview, we asked Dr. Horowitz about the critical elements needed to foster a better public understanding of mental health and the impact of the NRCI conference.


Q: What motivates your dedication to mental health advocacy?
Mental health and mental illness are such important issues to deal with in our society. We have millions of people suffering from treatable conditions. Unfortunately, people are embarrassed to get the help that’s available to them because of the stigma associated with mental illnesses. And to some extent the funding and awareness of the ability to help people through psychology is not available because of how much it’s been kept in the shadows. Yet it’s a vital concern that affects every segment of our society.

Q: How long have you been involved with the Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute?
I’ve been involved since the very beginning. I was so moved by the Cohens’ commitment to creating this institute out of their personal history and their resolve that as many people as possible in their community be educated about mental health. Having a warm and open place where people can learn about treatment, advocacy, and issues related to their families and communities is so important. I think that their methodology of bringing mental health education to the community through houses of worship and other community settings is a very powerful and distinctive one.

Q: How did the topics raised in this year’s conference contribute to the national discussion surrounding mental health care and advocacy?

Often people don’t get the ideal service treatment or consultation because we’re not sensitive to differences in culture. One of the issues the conference addressed is the way that different communities perceive mental health. So it was enlightening to the professionals, students and general public that attended because this type of dialogue creates more access and awareness for mental health services.

We were thrilled to have a culturally sensitive dialogue about mental health at the Naomi Ruth Cohen conference to move the agenda forward.

Q: As moderator of the panel discussion “How Different Cultures View Mental Illness,” what do you think needs to be done to further advance the presence of mental health awareness in various cultural communities?
We need to know more about the different cultures that we’re working with. In some cases that may be immigrant cultures in the United States, so we have to be sensitive to language. We have to try and find practitioners with experience working with that community or the willingness to learn about the special issues in that community. As one example, we know that for years in health care, we applied treatments and remedies based on studies of men without thinking about the implications and differences for women. The same holds true for many of our cultural groups. And so it’s a matter of our mental health professionals within various disciplines committing to learn about the communities they serve. It’s something The Chicago School does very well, getting on the ground and learning about the particular needs of a community.

Q: How does your work with educational institutions, such as The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, influence mental health advocacy?
We want our students at all of the colleges that study mental health and health care disciplines to know that the work is not limited to an office or clinical setting. It must also involve reaching our communities in meaningful ways. That’s part and parcel of what we do. So at our community of colleges and universities, our approach is to educate students to go the extra mile and engage with their communities to support people who are dealing with such important social and mental health and health issues.

Q: What can a person that is not involved in the mental health industry do to contribute to raising awareness of its importance?
Join our efforts at TCSPP and the NRCI to educate the public. We need advocates in the public and spokespeople more than ever before, because we’re in a time where the need is tremendous. Issues like depression and suicide, autism and other serious mental illnesses are growing, while the services available in many of our communities are contracting. Change is made one person at a time. By creating spaces where people are able to talk about these issues, which affect so many of our families but are often kept in the dark, we can all make an impact. You can also get involved through advocacy within your local government or becoming a donor to a related cause.

To find out more about Dr. Horowitz’s work in the community, follow him on Twitter at @TCSEdPrez.