According to the Centers for Disease Control, mental illness is one of the most common health disorders affecting Americans. As the number of people living with mental illness has increased in recent years, society is evolving to provide the needed support and treatment. Still, some people allow the perceived mental illness stigma to prevent them from finding the help they need. This is a problem we must face as a culture to acknowledge mental health issues and encourage people to seek treatment.

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Mental Health Stigma – Defined

A stigma is defined as an unjust, harsh attitude that society projects onto an individual or group. These erroneous misconceptions make the target feel ashamed of their perceived imperfection or flaw. Sadly, those with emotional pain or a mental health disorder, such as depression, PTSD, or anxiety, often fear criticism from their friends, family, and coworkers. The people closest to them can put undue pressure on them to be a certain way, and society as a whole often politicizes the issues in question.

These reactions can make it challenging for individuals with mental illness to seek treatment, fit into society, and live comfortable and fulfilling lives.

Did You Know? A study of over 90,000 people globally revealed the primary reason for delaying or foregoing mental health counseling was the stigma and the fear of judgment.

How Do Stereotypes Play into the Mental Health Stigma?

Stereotypes are defined as generalized representations of entire groups of people that are not only wrong but often hostile and insulting. A stereotype will allow people to make unfair judgments about others based on specific distinguishing characteristics that they apply to the entire group. For example, those with depression are often considered lazy or unambitious. In other words, society may believe they are responsible for the disease that afflicts them.

Individuals living with serious mental illness are faced with two primary challenges. First, they are enduring the symptoms and manifestations of an actual mental health disorder; second, they must learn to navigate the stereotypes and potential discrimination. In fact, those with diagnosed mental illness may encounter difficulty finding appropriate jobs, safe housing, proper health care, and establishing meaningful connections.

Breaking Stigmas and Stereotypes

All over the world, the incidence of mental diseases is increasing. Humanity must find ways to break stigmas and stereotypes to ensure everyone gets the appropriate treatment for their condition.

The stigmas related to mental illness can make individuals feel self-conscious or ashamed. Facing and fighting the mental health stigma is critical to help people who suffer alone and silently.

Seek medical help or professional counseling: An essential goal should be to work with a mental health counselor or medical health professional to receive adequate treatment.

Choose your words carefully: Patients should avoid embracing their mental health disorder in their speech. Making statements such as “I am bipolar” or “I was diagnosed with depression” will perpetuate victimhood and affliction.

Join a support group: Those living with mental health disorders should work to avoid isolation because no one can provide support if they are unaware of the situation. Many support organizations offer resources and programs both locally and nationally.

Those living with mental health disorders must learn methods of rejecting stigmas to be free to heal and recover. If you need someone to speak with, a safe place to start is a local mental health counselor. Your conversations will be confidential and allow you to grow in the confidence of your worth and dignity – so that you can face the world confidently. Remember – you have nothing at all to be ashamed of!

Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified mental health counselor accepting clients nationwide. Visit her website to take a self-assessment or schedule a free 30-minute initial consultation.

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