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Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Stigma of Mental Illness | Social Stigma

social stigma of mental illness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Being aware of what mental health is, and particularly what mental illness isn’t, can be an important part of the challenge of overcoming the stigma often associated with it. The stigma of mental illness can become a roadblock to seeking help and getting treatment, because of the social stigma felt by those who suffer from the disease.

What is Mental Health Stigma?

The social stigma around mental illness often results from stereotypes. Friends, co-workers, even family members, and members of the community can convey a sense of shame on an individual living with mental illness, when they don’t truly understand the disease. Stigma can prevent people from getting help, as they may be judged for seeking treatment for their depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other emotional distress.

Almost 90% of individuals living with a mental illness feel the stigma and discrimination that negatively impact their lives, according to the Mental Health Foundation. People who experience a mental health issue are the least likely individuals with a long-term health condition to live in good housing, find meaningful work, have long-term relationships, and be included in mainstream society.

Mental Health Awareness

Education and awareness are critical in overcoming the stigma associated with mental illness. The month of May has been established as Mental Health Awareness Month, a movement that started in 1949. The focus is on raising awareness of the various aspects of mental health and on reassuring everyone with a mental illness that “you are not alone.”

The focus is also on raising awareness and providing education in an effort to dismantle the misconceptions about mental health issues. The stigma of mental illness can be detrimental for an individual who is suffering from the disease, as it can add to their anxiety about how others see them and about how they see themselves.  

Knowing the facts and dispelling the myths can help everyone understand more about the causes, effects, and treatment. The main message for Mental Health Awareness Month is that individuals who are challenged with a mental health issue are not alone, that there is support and help available.

Myths and Facts

Many of the stereotypes around mental illness come out of myths that are commonly circulated. Taking the time to learn more about mental health concerns and, most importantly, the individuals who are challenged with mental illness, can help reduce or eliminate the social stigma they experience.

Myth: Mental health issues don’t affect me directly.

Fact: Mental health concerns are common in the US:

  • One in 5 adults in the US experience a mental health issue.
  • One in 25 people live with a serious mental illness, including major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
  • One in 10 young people experience periods of major depression.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, accounting for more than 41,000 lives lost each year.

Myth: Someone with a mental illness will be unpredictable and violent.

Fact: Most people with mental health issues are not violent. Only about 3-5% of violent acts are attributed to individuals who have a serious mental illness. Those with mental illness are actually 10 times more likely to be the victims of a violent crime.

Myth: People who have mental illness, even if they can manage their condition, cannot hold down a meaningful job.

Fact: Most people with mental health issues are active and productive members of their communities. This includes having good attendance, good work habits, and being motivated on the job. When an employee does have a mental health challenge and they receive appropriate treatment, the result can be:

  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased disability costs
  • Lower medical costs
  • Lower absenteeism

Myth: Mental illness is caused by personality weakness or character flaws. If an individual with a mental health issue would just snap out of it, they would be fine.

Fact: A person’s mental health problems have nothing to do with being weak or lazy. There are many factors that can contribute to mental illness, including:

  • Trauma or a history of abuse
  • Physical illness or injury
  • Brain chemistry
  • Genetics or a family history of mental health issues.

The fact is that individuals with mental illness can get better with appropriate treatment. It is time to break the social stigma and move forward with understanding and help.

California Faith-Based Addiction Treatment

Celebrate Hope is here for you when you need help with mental health issues, particularly when they co-occur with addiction. Please contact Celebrate Hope to learn more about our faith-based dual diagnosis treatment program. Our team helps men and women address the vicious cycle of mental illness and addiction so they can begin life anew. We rely on the teachings of Jesus Christ, along with evidence-based therapies to get individuals on the path of recovery.

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