Recognizing Mental Health Stigma and Why It Causes Problems

Recognizing Mental Health Stigma and Why It Causes Problems

The stigma surrounding mental health concerns includes negative attitudes or false beliefs toward others with mental illness. Such thoughts lead to discrimination, with people suffering from mental illness not being treated fairly in many cases. People with a mental health concern may be discouraged from seeking help because of the stigma. Understanding mental health stigma and the problems that come with it helps raise awareness of the issue while encouraging people to be proactive in doing something about it.

Mental Health Stigma and Harmful Effects

There are harmful effects of mental health stigma people should know. Discrimination toward people with mental illness is likely, but in some cases, it is unintentional. Sometimes people with mental illness are at the brunt of negative remarks related to their symptoms or their course of treatment. People may purposely avoid being around someone because of their mental illness because they fear a person is unstable or a danger to others. A person with a mental illness may even pass judgment among themselves.

Stigma is a problem when people don’t know the details about a mental illness. It may affect how decisions are made and how to provide adequate support (read here about a potential therapy that may be helpful: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/what-is-schema-therapy/). Some may not realize how harmful stigma can be. It may discourage someone with a mental health concern from seeking help. People such as family, friends, and coworkers may also lack a proper understanding of the mental illness. Some with mental illness find it challenging to get a job, go to school, socialize, or find housing because of their mental situation. 

People with mental illness may be bullied, harassed, or physically harmed. Some may not receive the help they need from their health insurance. People who have mental illness may experience self-esteem problems leading them to think they can’t be successful or their situation won’t improve.

How to Deal with the Stigma

Whether you recognize it in yourself or in someone you know, understanding how stigma affects people is crucial so you can learn how to cope. There are things you can do to fight the stigma, such as the following:

• Get help for your mental health by seeking treatment. If you have a mental health condition or think you have a mental health problem, focus on yourself by getting help. You may have fear or be reluctant due to being labelled something you’re not, but think about how your life will benefit, including learning how to manage your symptoms so you can live comfortably.

• Avoid feeling shameful or doubting yourself about your mental health. While stigma may come from others, you may think your mental health situation is a sign of personal weakness (which it is not). Educating yourself about your options and taking steps to get help shows you have courage. It shows you care about yourself and you are willing to overcome barriers to regain your self-esteem.

• Avoid self-isolation. It is essential to have a support system that includes people that care about you. It helps you to have someone to reach out to when you need support and encouragement. 

• Your illness does not define you. Remember, you are an individual with a mental health condition. For instance, you may have bipolar disorder, but instead of referring to yourself as bipolar, say I have bipolar disorder. It helps to put your individuality above your illness.

• Connect with mental health support groups and organizations that raise awareness. There are local and online groups providing resources about mental health stigma and ways to get support for yourself or others with mental illness.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to speak out against the stigma. Reach out to people you know and ask for their support. Stigma comes from not knowing the facts. Getting educated about the stigma and being proactive in helping yourself and others will make a difference.

About the author:

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
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