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Stop The Stigma: Student Groups, Professionals Pushing To Raise Awareness On Mental Illness Treatment

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Mental illness affects millions of people in the United States, but it's a topic that can be challenging to discuss.

CBS News is raising awareness to try to stop the stigma, reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.

Cecilia McGough was diagnosed with schizophrenia in college.

"I thought that I was not only losing my mind but also my future as well," she said.

For years, she says she hid her condition because of the stigma, so she started the group Students With Schizophrenia to raise awareness.

"As a student who hallucinates and struggles with paranoia and has a diagnosis of schizophrenia, I realized that there wasn't very much support on college campuses," said McGough.

CBS NEWS: Stop The Stigma: Special Coverage

She is among the 60 million adults and adolescents living with a mental health condition in this country.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, some of the most common conditions include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are less common.

I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough | TEDxPSU

I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough | TEDxPSU by TEDx Talks on YouTube

"Only about 4 in 10 adults who experiences a mental health condition gets treatment," said Angela Kimball, acting CEO of NAMI. "That means 6 out of 10 are going without any kind of treatment."

While rates of mental health conditions are fairly steady, rates of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents are rising and suicide rates in nearly all age groups are at the highest levels in 30 years.

"We are not getting people the kind of care they need in time," said Kimball. "I think one thing everybody should all be aware of is that treatment works and there is no shame in reach out for help. We have effective medications, we have great therapies and we have important peer supports."

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McGough's organization has launched more than 60 chapters around the country.

"I would want people to realize that we are people first before our diagnosis," she said. "I'm more than my hallucinations. I'm more than the paranoia. And also to get away from this myth that people with schizophrenia are a danger to society."

She hopes education will stop the stigma around all types of mental illness.

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