Part 2: Overcoming The Stigma Of Mental Illness
When someone has an unfavorable opinion of you because you have a characteristic or personal attribute that is seen to be, or actually is a disadvantage, this is known as a stigma. Negative attitudes and views against people with mental illnesses are unfortunately frequent. Stigmas can also lead to discrimination.
Some of the harmful effects of stigma can include:
- Reluctance to seek help or treatment
- Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers, or others
- Fewer opportunities for work, school, or social activities
- Bullying, physical violence, or harassment
- Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
- Believing that you’ll never succeed at particular tasks or at that you’ll never improve your situation
Did you know? According to the LendingTree, 19% of people in Iowa have a diagnosed mental illness and 9% of those did not receive care.
Steps to cope with stigma
- Seek treatment. Just like if you had a broken leg or had an ear infection, you’d schedule an appointment with your doctor to get better, don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness stop you or your loved ones from getting help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that disrupt your work and personal life.
- Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your or others’ condition is a sign of personal weakness or that mental illness should be able to be controlled without help. Seeking counseling, education, and being kind to yourself and others can help gain positive self-esteem and overcome destructive judgment.
- Don’t isolate yourself. If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, clergy, or members of other support groups can assist you. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support, and understanding you need.
- Choose your words carefully. You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder” or “I struggle with depression” or “I was diagnosed with PTSD.” This separates the person from the illness.
- Join a support group. Don’t isolate. There are many local and national groups that offer programs and resources. These groups educate people with mental illnesses, their families, and their communities to help reduce stigma and move toward empowerment. Your healthcare provider can assist you with identifying groups and resources es to assist you and your loved ones.
- Speak out against stigma. Whether it’s with a group of friends or a larger audience, educate others respectfully about mental illness to promote change.
Judgment almost always stems from a lack of understanding rather than information based on facts.
Remind people that we would not make fun of someone suffering from heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Making fun of someone with a mental illness is harmful, increases stigma, and promotes discrimination. Speaking up not only educates but gives courage to others facing a similar challenge and helps them to seek help.
Reach out for help if you or a loved one is struggling with mental health. Please contact your primary care provider or mental health professional and know that you are not alone.