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In conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama Department of Mental Health is developing a statewide campaign to promote healthy conversations and prioritize recovery for Alabamians living with illness.

The initiative, called Stop Judging, Start Healing, connects treatment providers, victims of illness and their loved ones so each party can further educate themselves and coordinate on recovery plans that eradicate common stigmas. The central maladies covered through this program are mental health illnesses, substance and opioid use disorders, HIV and Hepatitis C.

One of the primary focuses in the program is how language can affect recovery. Through teaching methods to sensitively discuss illness and spread accurate information, the road to rehabilitation can be smoother for people living with these disorders.

“People with these conditions often fear that others are blaming or judging them,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a press release. “These conditions are manageable, and so it is important for everyone to understand that irrational fear creates barriers to people seeking and receiving care. Compassion helps break these barriers. Everyone deserves dignity, compassion and support.”

Improving language is encouraged through healthy, open conversations between members of the public, with an emphasis on compassion and empathy. Being able to work through issues using healthy dialogue and kindness is one way Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear says recovery and rehabilitation efforts are made easier.

“The stigma that surrounds mental illness and substance use disorder is the number one barrier to treatment and recovery,” she said in a press release. “We must learn how to speak in positive terms, support our friends and family, and offer appropriate resources to people who need our help.”

Through the use of a digitally-focused marketing campaign, advertisements with these principles will spread across the state of Alabama by way of television, radio and social media. The main focus is for medical professionals, friends and family to recognize the importance of “people first” language, then relay these practices in their care and support of the individuals who need it.

“Partnering with the Alabama Department of Public Health is the right, next step in the movement to educate practitioners, providers and the people of Alabama, in decreasing the stigma surrounding diseases that affect the mind and body,” Beshear said in a press release. “Support for total health is necessary for the well-being of an individual.”

For those who are interested in learning more about Stop Judging, Start Healing, search the hashtag #stopjudgingstarthealing on social media or visit

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