State Representative Andy Schor’s (D-Lansing) House Resolution 298 passed the House today to declare May 22-28, 2016, as Invisible Illness Awareness Week. These illnesses can include Crohn’s disease, lupus and fibromyalgia, among others, and often don’t show signs of suffering or pain to the casual observer. These impairments can include exhaustion, constant pain and cognitive difficulties. Nearly half of all Americans suffer from a chronic medical condition, and 96 percent of them live with an ailment that is invisible.

“It’s unfortunate that so many Americans live with a debilitating disease, but even more unfortunate is that those without signs of a medical condition feel judged because they don’t show the physical signs associated with their conditions. Pain is still there, and we should understand that pain and the treatment needed should not stigmatize them,” Schor said. “My hope is to bring awareness to these illnesses and remove the limitations associated with them.”

“With invisible illnesses often being hard to diagnose, we as legislatures need to do our part in raising awareness so every individual can receive the most effective health care as possible,” said state Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Meridian Township).

Katie Dama Jaskolski is the president and co-founder of Life as a Zebra Foundation, a Lansing-based nonprofit that works to raise awareness of invisible illnesses such as dysautonomia, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and vasculitis.

“We have shined the light on invisible illnesses throughout the years, but it’s still not enough to erase the stigma many people feel, and to bring more early diagnosis to these conditions,” Dama Jaskolski said. “It’s great to have an advocate like Rep. Schor in the Michigan Legislature to bring this issue to the forefront. The person right beside you could be suffering inside with an unseen illness, but compassion, care and understanding must be available.”