Many people believe that mental illness is something to be ashamed of. Stigmatization can result in discriminatory actions in various settings, including workplaces, social circles, and schools. It can also result in “self-stigma,” where the individual internalizes societal beliefs and prejudices, leading to low self-esteem, limited aspirations, secrecy, and treatment avoidance.
Everyone must lessen the stigma associated with mental illness. The following are some quick solutions.
A fear of stigma can lead to reluctance to seek help, and inaccurate stereotypes can reinforce it. For example, people with anxiety may be labeled as cowardly; someone with depression might be told to snap out of it, or someone with schizophrenia might be mocked as having a split personality. Stigma is also reinforced when the media misrepresents mental health issues.
It can be helpful to educate yourself about mental illness as it helps to dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding it. You can also inform others respectfully about mental illness to promote change.
Don’t let the fear of stigma stop you or your loved ones from seeking treatment. A psychiatrist should be seen if you have any worries about your mental health, just as you would if you broke your leg or became ill. Treatment can relieve and reduce symptoms that interfere with work and daily life. You can also learn to overcome self-stigma through therapy and connecting with others with mental health challenges.
Start a Conversation
Often, people are afraid to ask for help because they feel like they will be stigmatized. It can be especially true for individuals with intersecting identities, such as a person of color or a woman.
Stigma is a complex issue that can have both positive and negative consequences. It is essential to recognize it to be more aware of how your words and actions can impact others.
You can help to reduce mental health stigma by normalizing the conversation. It can be done by openly discussing your mental health journey and educating others. You can also help to dispel myths by reporting inaccurate stereotypes in the media to Suicide Prevention Non Profit.
If you know someone struggling, consider asking them how they are doing and if they need help. Listen to them intently, and do not judge or blame them for their struggles. Finally, ensure they know you are there for them and will continue to be a safe place to discuss these issues.
Be Mindful of Your Words
We don’t think twice about going to the doctor for our annual physical, getting our teeth cleaned, or taking care of other health issues, but with mental health, stigma can hold us back. Stigma can be rooted in ignorance and misinformation, prejudice and discrimination, or internalized feelings of shame.
Institutional stigma includes rules and practices that unfairly target people with mental health issues because of their background, race, socioeconomic level, religion, culture, or other characteristics. Or it can be what’s called “stereotype stigma,” where a person is negatively perceived for mentioning their mental health challenges or seeking treatment.
Finally, there’s “perceived stigma,” a person’s fear that others will judge them if they acknowledge their struggles or seek help. It can be incredibly challenging for people of color, who may experience a higher rate of prejudice and discrimination daily. It can be exacerbated by the pressure in many cultures to appear strong and capable, especially within families.
In the wake of the tragedies that followed the deaths of celebrities, many people have started discussing the importance of building a support system and reaching out to those around you. But what does this look like in practice?
Perceived stigma, the fear that others will view their mental illness negatively, is a common barrier to seeking help. That is especially true in lower-income countries where access to affordable care is challenging.
Institutional stigma policies and procedures that disproportionately impact people with mental health issues are another barrier to seeking help. It can be seen in everything from employment discrimination to lack of accessible mental health care.
It’s vital to use non-stigmatizing language in conversations about mental health. Avoid using phrases like “crazy,” “nuts,” or “mental.” Instead, focus on educating people about the prevalence of mental illness and providing information on seeking help. Many local and national organizations offer programs and resources for mentally ill individuals and their supportive persons.