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Mental Health Stigma – Breaking Barriers to Seeking Help

3 min read

Stigma is one of the biggest obstacles to seeking help for mental health conditions. It affects people of all ages, genders, races and ethnicities as well as socioeconomic levels, cultures and religions.

People may feel embarrassed and ashamed about their mental illness and may internalise any prejudiced views held by others, leading to isolation, unemployment, violence or even suicide. But stigmatisation can be overcome.

1. Educate yourself

Education about mental health stigma is one of the best ways to break down barriers. This may involve learning facts about certain conditions as well as understanding how beliefs and stereotypes play into it all.

Understanding mental health issues makes it easier to provide support and compassion to someone facing difficulties with mental illness. Furthermore, learning the language that promotes respect may aid conversations around mental illness; so avoid any words or phrases which could be seen as stigmatizing or offensive when discussing mental illness.

Stigma can lead to social isolation, exacerbating symptoms and undermining treatment adherence. Furthermore, individuals can feel ashamed about their condition leading them to deny or minimize its severity. Therefore, it’s crucially important to fight stigma by providing education about mental illness among peers, encouraging discussion around recovery stories from personal accounts of recovery – something FEI Behavioral Health takes pride in doing as part of this important movement.

2. Ask for help

At times when help is most needed, stigma may keep someone from seeking it. This is particularly true of mental illness: individuals can fear being seen as “crazy” by friends and coworkers when learning of their condition; as a result, this fear often prevents individuals from seeking treatment as they fear labeling as “crazy,” avoiding work altogether, failing to take medication as prescribed, isolating themselves from others and losing self-esteem altogether.

Individuals suffering from mental health conditions are vulnerable to being targets of violence and hate crimes, particularly individuals of color, women, or the LGBTQI+ community. Furthermore, they may also face being unemployed or discriminated against at their place of employment.

Individuals can help reduce mental health stigma by spreading knowledge of the condition and dispelling misconceptions, reporting any negative stereotypes in media to SANE StigmaWatch and sharing personal stories that normalize conversations around mental illness – showing everyone who may be affected that anyone can be touched by mental illness.

3. Seek support

Stigma often results from fear and lack of understanding, and providing accurate and timely information is vital to decreasing stigmatizing attitudes. This means using less-stigmatizing language when discussing mental illness in public and making sure that people understand that treatment must take place for this condition.

Individuals should seek support, whether that is from peers, family, friends or mental health professionals. Sharing one’s mental health journey will make deconstructing stigma easier.

Individuals should also recognize that stigmatization stems both from themselves and from others, including any belief that having a mental health diagnosis indicates you are crazy, violent or dangerous – leading to self-stigmatization which in turn makes seeking help more challenging. By taking steps to educate themselves and seek support services they may overcome negative self-images, feelings of shame and destructive patterns of behavior brought on by mental health struggles.

4. Share your story

Doing the right thing when sharing your mental health story. Understanding why you want to do this before doing so. For instance, do you hope to inspire hope for others instead of telling one that’s full of pain? If that is the case for you then perhaps focus on telling an uplifting narrative instead.

An unfortunate association of mental illness with weakness and inferiority can create feelings of shame and isolation among sufferers and deter them from seeking assistance. Furthermore, such perceptions can create negative attitudes among family members who feel blamed for their loved one’s condition or disenfranchised socially.

Other stigmas against mental health issues include lack of recognition and an overly simplistic belief that mental health issues can be overcome with willpower alone, leading to dismissive attitudes from society as a whole and stopping individuals from receiving support they require.

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