Mary Rumbaugh is director of the Clackamas County Behavioral Health Department

One in five adults will experience mental health challenges in their lifetime. That means mental health touches every single one of us, be it friends, family or yourself.

Mary RumbaughThis past Tuesday, Oct. 10, marked "World Mental Health Day," created to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of better mental health. On this day, we are proud to share some of the important work underway at Clackamas County to reduce stigma around mental health. The stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide is a very real issue. It creates an environment where people who have mental health issues or thoughts of suicide are regarded on a spectrum that ranges from "not normal" to someone to be feared or jeered. Since mental health issues affect so many of us, breaking down stigma is crucial.

Consider how many references to mental illness are commonly used as insults. When was the last time you heard someone called "nuts" or "crazy" or "schizo?"

Negative labels like these are meant to imply a weakness of character, rather than a compassionate response to a treatable illness. This kind of public narrative can lead people with a mental health condition or emotional crisis to avoid seeking help and treatment, and to suffer in silence.

The stigma of mental illness is, quite simply, an insidious form of discrimination that hurts not only people and families affected by mental health issues and suicide, but also our community. 

Behavioral Health advocates and professionals in Clackamas County are working to chip away at stigma and fortunately we are joined by others around the globe. For example, at Clackamas County, we are pioneering work to encourage our employees to share their voice and to Think Different on Stigma. You can watch some of their stories at

We want everyone to know that mental illnesses are real, that recovery is always the goal, and help is always available. The work of stigma reduction will take all of us working together.

If you would like to learn more, get help or tell others, here are some ways to get started. 

Get help

There is one death by suicide every five days in Clackamas County, a 16 percent higher rate of suicide than that of the national rate.  

If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide or is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition or an emotional crisis, call the Clackamas County Crisis Line at 503-655-8585. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Riverstone Mental Health Crisis and Urgent Walk-in Services Center is open seven days a week in the Ross Center near Clackamas Town Center at 11211 S.E. 82nd Ave., Suite O. No appointments are necessary. To learn more visit


Get trained to help

Everyone can play a role in suicide prevention, it is no longer the sole responsibility of behavioral health professionals.

Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties offer free mental health and suicide prevention first aid trainings. Participants learn about signs and symptoms, how to offer first aid until more experienced help is available, resources for help and more. They will also learn about myths and facts. The trainings are offered free of charge to make them accessible.

You can find the trainings, offered in English and Spanish, on our regional website at  

Media and mental health toolkit

Clackamas County Behavioral Health is releasing the "Mind the Story Mental Health Matters for All: Media & Mental Health Toolkit," in recognition of World Mental Health Day. The Toolkit was made possible with generous support from Providence Health & Services Oregon.

Our hope is that it will be used as a tool for people to communicate about mental illness and suicide. We have written it from a behavioral health perspective to emphasize hope, treatment and recovery.

We see the media as an important partner to support people, families and friends find resources for help and for the public to learn about mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention. We offer this toolkit as a resource for the media and others communicating these key public health issues. For more information go to

I look forward to the day when the stigma around mental illness has become a thing of the past and mental health and illness are recognized for what they are — preventable and treatable illnesses. In the name of hope, healing and recovery, thank you for listening. 

Mary Rumbaugh is director of the Clackamas County Behavioral Health Department.

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