More than half of people with mental illness receive no treatment at all. Oftentimes, people avoid or delay seeking support and other forms of treatment due to concerns that they will be treated differently once they come forward. They may fear losing their job, alienating family or friends, or even fear for their safety.

It’s time to face the facts; this is not equitable or sustainable access to care. A proven barrier to equitable care is the pervasiveness of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination.

Mental illness-related stigma, including that which exists in the healthcare system and among healthcare providers, creates serious barriers to access and quality of care. This issue is two-fold and cyclical.

Self-stigma can often exacerbate someone’s mental health problems which may delay or stop them from seeking help. Social isolation, poor housing, unemployment, poverty and many other social determinants of health are all factors linked to mental health conditions. Stigma and discrimination have the power to trap people in a cycle of illness. As long as stigma exists in our immediate communities, the cycle will continue.

We need to begin preventative measures starting in our backyard, taking the power back and giving it to the individual. Mental Health Connecticut’s (MHC) Let’s Face It campaign is doing just that. For Mental Health Awareness Month this year, MHC set out to find 31 Connecticut residents, with unique and powerful experiences, who could share the impact of stigma, in all its forms, along with how they are finding ways to heal and move forward.

Each day in May, MHC highlighted a Connecticut resident and shared a small part of their personal story. The value of the Let’s Face It campaign is both in the stories themselves and in the campaign as a whole. This is a glimpse into the lives of our friends and neighbors here in Connecticut. Everyone we walk past on the sidewalk, the coworkers we have only spoken to a handful of times; everyone — including me — has a personal story to tell, and each meeting is an opportunity to create a safe space for them to share.

Access to care cannot be equitable while stigma, in all its forms, remains pervasive. Join MHC and 31 CT residents as we face stigma of all kinds, together.

Scott Brabant is the board chair of Mental Health Connecticut