Let’s talk about mental health.
By Taylor Rhyman
A stigma is defined as, “A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” In other words, a stigma is when someone or something is shamed because of a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that is thought to be or looked at in a negative way.
Today’s society is a home to many who hold beliefs that symptoms of psychopathology are threatening and uncomfortable. Stigmatizing beliefs regarding those who struggle mental illness are held by a wide range of people, regardless of whether they have a family member with a mental illness, know someone with a mental illness or have knowledge and experience with mental illness. Stigma offers a platform for both damaging attitudes and discriminatory behavior towards those with mental illnesses, which will then cause those who have mental health issues to be isolated, receive little to no social support, and develop self-esteem issues. Other negative effects include:
- The stigma against mental health causes people to feel ashamed for something that they have no control over.
- Those who are suffering may be reluctant to ask or search for help.
- The stigma against mental illness also has a detrimental effect on treatment outcomes. One may begin to believe that they can never win their battle because of negative stereotypes that surround their illness.
- Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover mental illness treatment.
- Some displays of discrimination can become internalized, which causes self-stigma. People with mental illness may begin allowing the negative thoughts expressed by others to create a new distorted sense of health.
- Self-stigma is found to have a negative impact on success in employees and students.
There is a never-ending list of the adverse effects caused by the stigma against mental health, but these factors alone represent a significant reason to attempt to obliterate the stigma against mental health issues.
Slowly, but surely society is working towards ensuring that those who struggle with mental illnesses social inclusion and easy access to the resources needed for recovery. There are many steps that can be taken every day by anyone to stand up to the stigma against mental illness.
Here are some ways that YOU can support the movement against stigma:
- Talk Openly About Mental Health: Talking about personal experiences, allows stereotypes to be broken down and can take the taboo out of something that is uncontrollable and can happen to anyone.
- Educate Yourself And Others: Take the time to educate yourself on different mental illnesses, and how they can have an impact on someone in day-to-day life. With this knowledge, educate others. No matter where you are if you over-hear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, attempt to intervene and kindly explain how the comment can make an individual feel.
- Be Conscious Of Language: Remind people that language matters. It is simple to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives, and most people are willing to rethink their word choice if they are aware of the damage it can do.
- Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness: Mental illness is a real illness. Help people understand that mental illness is, in fact, a disease. Remind them that they wouldn’t make fun of someone with diabetes or heart disease.
- Be Honest About Treatment: Talk about an appointment to see a therapist or psychiatrist the same way you would discuss an appointment with your primary care doctor. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist should not come hand in hand with the fear of being judged.
- Practice Empathy Always: Take the time out of your day to connect with others. Talk to someone with whom you do not know very well, and listen to what they have to say. Make an effort to really hear what a person is saying, you never know if you will be the only person who actually took the time to care about them that day, week or even that month.
No matter how you may choose to contribute to the mental health movement, you have the ability to make a significant difference in someone’s life by simply understanding that mental illness is not the fault of anyone. Every day there is an opportunity to help create a better understanding of mental health while overcoming stereotypes and breaking down barriers. Use each day you are given as a new opportunity to eradicate stigma and replace it with a chance to get help and discover hope.
Interested in learning more about living stigma-free? Click the link below.
If you are someone you know is struggling with a mental illness: do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help or seek treatment, do not isolate yourself, and don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. The following links are free, easy access mental health resources.
13 Mental Health Resources that Are Absolutely Free
81 Affordable Mental Health Resources