Because an increasing number of people are reporting that their mental health is deteriorating, our society is gradually becoming better prepared to meet our requirements. Despite this, there is still a stigma associated with mental illness and asking for help for it.
More than fifty percent of adults in the United States will, at some point in their lives, have a mental health condition that requires treatment. In addition, one in every 25 people is currently coping with a significant mental illness, such as major depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or anorexia nervosa. It is surprising, and frequently contradictory, that our society maintains such a high level of stigma in light of the frequency with which individuals report experiencing a decline in their mental health.
One survey concluded that a large percentage of people believe it is important to assist those who are coping with mental illness so that they can lead normal lives with other individuals who may be able to assist them in their recovery.
The participants answered that they don’t endorse the notion of isolating people who suffer from mental health conditions from the general population. According to the results of the survey, the general public does not believe that people who are afflicted with mental conditions are exceedingly dangerous or susceptible to violent acts. Nonetheless, two-thirds of those who participated in the survey thought that there are still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, and almost half of those who participated in the survey said that they would not welcome a mental health clinic into their suburb.
What Exactly is the Stigma?
It’s not uncommon for people to hold stigmas about themselves. Once they have been in place for several years and have become established, it may be challenging to tear down and overcome them. A stigma is a harmful social attitude that is often unfairly tied to an individual or a group. This attitude frequently places shame on the target of the stigma because of a perceived deficit or difference in their very existence.
Individuals who live in a particular manner, who adhere to particular cultural beliefs, or who make choices regarding their way of life, as well as people who are currently coping with health conditions such as mental illnesses, can be stigmatized by individuals or by groups.
The Stigma Attached to Mental Health
Individuals who live with a mental illness or who seek assistance for mental anguish, such as anxiousness, depression, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can be subjected to societal disapproval, also known as shame.
The stigma attached to mental health can come from a variety of sources, including family, friends, colleagues at work, and society as a whole. Organizations can also politicize stigma. It can prevent individuals who live with mental conditions from receiving the assistance they need, integrating into the societal structure, and leading lives that are comfortable and enjoyable.
The stigma attached to mental health can be caused by stereotypes, which are oversimplified or broad and vague beliefs or depictions of whole groups of individuals that are frequently inaccurate, unfavorable, and offensive. Stereotypes can be passed down from generation to generation. They make it possible for a person to form snap judgments about other people based on a small number of defining traits, which that person can then apply to anyone who belongs to that group.
For example, those who suffer from depression are frequently stigmatized as being lazy, and some people are judging those who suffer from anxiety as being cowardly. Individuals routinely worry that they will be branded as “crazy” if they merely seek assistance from a mental health professional. There is not a single one of these characteristics that is accurate, and they all contribute to unnecessary suffering, as well as prevent individuals from receiving the necessary assistance.
The notion that people who suffer from mental illness are violent or unsafe is frequently used for political purposes as a stereotype. Having said that, only a small percentage of people who live with mental illness engage in violent behavior. They are ten times more likely to become victims of a crime, which makes them a susceptible population that we should protect rather than fear.
Why is There a Stigma Attached to Mental Health?
A person’s mental health condition, which may cause them to behave in a manner that deviates from what is regarded to be the societal or cultural standard, as well as personal beliefs, beliefs held in society at large, and beliefs held within the family can all contribute to the perpetuation of the stigma associated with mental illness. Stigma can be fueled by several factors, including a lack of understanding education, interpretation, and fear of those who live with mental illness.
The Repercussions of Stigmatizing Mental Health
The Mental Health Foundation reports that almost nine out of ten people who live with a mental illness believe that discrimination and stigma hurt their lives. They also assert that people who have mental health issues are among the least effective of any group with a long-term health illness or disability to be capable of finding work, being in serious relationships, living in proper housing, and being socially considered part of mainstream society.
One’s symptoms may become more severe, and it may be more challenging to get better if they are subjected to stigma because of their mental health condition. Living with stigma can also make it less likely for a person to seek help when they need it. There is a possibility that stigma is not obvious or is not communicated through overt actions. It can manifest itself in the language that people employ when describing a mental health problem or individuals who are coping with a mental illness. This can involve using language that is hurtful, offensive, or dismissive, all of which can be disconcerting for people to hear. Because of this, they might get the impression that no one else comprehends what they’re going through and that they are all by themselves.
Some of the following are examples of the effects of stigma:
- Internalized oppression of unfavorable beliefs and attitudes
- Depression, loss of hope, social exclusion, and low self-esteem
- Avoiding treatment out of shame can make symptoms worse.
- Insufficient access to criminal justice workplace discrimination and unemployment
How to Overcome the Stigma Associated With Mental Health
Because the vast bulk of stigma stems from a lack of awareness as well as misdirected fear, the dissemination of information to the general public to increase their knowledge regarding mental illness is of the utmost importance. When one finds out that a friend, a member of their family, or a colleague is coping with a mental illness, it is essential to investigate reputable sources of data on mental health problems and become more knowledgeable about the subject.
At the level of the individual, a person who suffers from a mental health condition can take an active role in their treatment. They could also think about getting an advocate if they believe that stigma hinders their ability to deal with day-to-day situations, such as full-time work, housing, or health insurance, successfully. This is an option worth considering.
An advocate is a qualified professional who assists individuals in working through labor disputes, doctor’s visits, financial commitments, housing issues, and other similar issues. They advocate for the rights of others, even if those individuals do not have the resources or the capacity to accomplish this task on their own.
Stigma is a multifaceted problem that has been studied extensively but remains difficult to eradicate. However, there are actions that a person who is dealing with the stigma associated with mental health can take, such as looking for an advisor who can help them with problems at work and financial concerns. They can also focus on educating others about mental health conditions by sharing their experiences to promote a deeper understanding of such conditions.
It’s important to remember that everyone can play a part in reducing the stigma associated with mental health. Folks need to inform themselves about mental health conditions and gain a better understanding of what it’s like to live with these conditions. They can help eliminate widely held misconceptions and stereotypes, not only in themselves but also in others, by acting in this manner.
We can eradicate the stigma that surrounds mental illness through increased education and comprehension, and there is assistance available to those who are currently coping with the effects of stigma.