Your mental health is an important part of your overall health. Of course you must eat right and exercise everyday, but that can feel pointless if you’re struggling with mental health issues. Unfortunately, not everyone who struggles with mental illness seeks help. Some undervalue the importance of mental health while others believe that they can handle their issues on their own. Still others refuse help for mental health problems because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. It’s important that you don’t let stigma get in the way of mental health.
The stigma of mental illness
Merriam-Webster defines stigma as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.” Stigma is something that can make a person feel outcast and alone. People with mental illness may feel discriminated against, or actually be discriminated against because of society’s views towards mental illness.
A study found that 57% of adults believe that people are caring and sympathetic towards those with mental illness. While that number may seem low, only 25% of people with mental health symptoms felt that people are caring and sympathetic towards those with mental illness.
There are two different types of stigma around mental health. There’s the social stigma where people view someone with mental illness differently. But there’s also the self-stigma where a person focuses on perceptions of discriminating behavior.
Both types of stigma can get in the way of seeking help. A person with mental health symptoms might be too scared to admit that they have a problem or to seek help. They might not want to disclose that information to friends, family, or coworkers for fear of being judged or being treated differently.
A general lack of knowledge or understanding can contribute to the stigma of mental illness. Sometimes knowing just a little bit, but not knowing all of the facts about mental health can be a dangerous thing. It can create stereotypes and misinform others about mental illness.
What can you do about the stigma around mental illness?
- Be informed. Learning the issues is one of the best things that you can do. Educate yourself on mental health issues.
- Educating yourself is important, but you should also educate others about mental health issues.
- Be mindful of things such as language that can trivialize mental illness. It’s easy to call somebody “crazy” or “insane,” but that only further strengthens stigma.
- Seek help or encourage others to seek help. Be supportive to those who need help with mental health problems, and be brave and seek help if you are struggling with mental health issues.
Dr. Lance Foster provides psychiatric care for children, adolescents, and adults here in Northwest Arkansas.