DEFINING THE STIGMA ON MENTAL HEALTH
The negative stigma on mental health is a serious issue in today’s society, but before we can stop, smash or eliminate the stigma, we must know what we are fighting against. Read further for a better understanding of what it looks like to stigmatize mental health, what it leads to, and how to prevent it. Once we fully understand what the stigma is we can be better equipped to take the next step.
WHAT IS THE STIGMA?
- The FALSE belief that mental and behavioral disorders are personally controllable and if individuals cannot get better on their own, they are seen to lack personal effort, are blamed for their condition, and seen as personally responsible.
- The FALSE belief that those with mental disorders as frightening, unpredictable, and strange.
- The FALSE labeling of individuals with mental and behavioral illnesses as unequal or inferior.
- The FALSE judgment of individuals with mental and behavioral illnesses which leads to discrimination, avoidance or mistreatment.
WHAT IS THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE STIGMA?
- Society often stigmatizes mental and behavioral disorders to a greater degree than physical disorders
- Stigma is structural in society and can create barriers for persons with a mental or behavioral disorder.
- Social stigma can also cause disparities in access to basic services and needs such as renting an apartment.
- Individuals move between more or less ‘stigmatized’ categories depending on their knowledge and disclosure of their stigmatizing condition. As a result, the more individuals open up about their condition, the more they are vulnerable to stigmatization.
- Stigma is the co-occurrence of several components including labeling, stereotyping, separation, status loss, and discrimination
- Stigma is not only held among others in society but can also be internalized by the person with the condition. Thus, the continued impact of social/public stigma can influence an individual to feel guilty and inadequate about his or her condition.
- The expectations of becoming stigmatized, in addition to actually being stigmatized, are factors that influence psychosocial well-being.
WHAT DOES STIGMA LEAD TO?
- Reluctance to seek help or treatment
- Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
- Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
- Bullying, physical violence or harassment
- Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness treatment
- The belief that individuals with mental health issues never succeed at certain challenges or cannot improve their situation
HOW DO WE STOP THE STIGMA?
- Educate yourself on mental health issues; separate the facts from the stigmas
- Speak out against the stigma and stand up for those being discriminated against or marginalized
- Become more empathetic; try to understand the struggle of those experiencing mental health issues.
- Be an advocate for your friends, family and co-workers so they know they can speak to you without judgment if they are experiencing tough times or mental health issues
- Do not equate people suffering with mental health issues as their mental illness. For example, instead of “he is bipolar,” “he is struggling with bipolar disorder”
- Consider the comparison of physical and mental illness. Ask yourself why you empathize, sympathize and support those with physical illnesses differently than mental illnesses?
- Learn the warning signs of mental illness and help loved ones get help when they need it.
- Accept the commonality of mental health issues; 1 in 5 people struggle with mental illness at any given time. With figures like that, mental health isn’t a rarity, but a very common, shared experience.
- Think about how you would want others to treat you if you struggled with mental health issues.
Make an effort to make genuine connections; people can hide their problems behind happy-looking social media posts if no one is willing to really ask how they are doing