Top 4 Ways to Reduce the Stigma Around Mental Health
There has been a stigma around mental health since society first began to recognize the presence of mental illness in others, without understanding what it was.
Mental health challenges manifested in ways that scared and confused many people, leading to centuries of not only misdiagnoses but countless versions of improper treatments.
Even when mental illness became formally recognized in the medical field, breaking the stigma of mental health that had been developed over centuries, was not so easily undone. Though the imperfection of human nature makes it unlikely that we will ever fully be able to erase the stigma around mental health, it can be greatly reduced with a unified effort.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the stigma of mental health, as well as the different actions we can take to play our part in breaking the stigma of mental health.
What is the stigma in mental health?
A stigma is a negative label or stereotype that’s been attached to a specific characteristic, behavior, trait or condition, like those within the mental health category.
In recent decades, significant public progress has been made in acknowledging, validating and addressing the essential mental healthcare aspect of our lives. The presence of stigma, however, is still very much alive within many people’s thoughts, beliefs and perspectives.
Common public stigmas around mental health include believing people with mental health disorders are weak or lazy; that having a mental health disorder means you’re incompetent; mental health disorders are the individual’s fault; mental health disorders mean you’re crazy.
Stigmatization can take many forms, can be internal and external, range in severity and have serious negative consequences on the individuals affected by it.
Some of these consequences include:
- Exclusion from social activities or self-isolation
- Ostracization in certain religious or cultural communities
- Discrimination in the workplace, housing and other areas of life
- Self-stigmatizing (feelings of guilt, blame, low self-esteem)
- Delay in seeking and receiving treatment
Depending on other factors in the individual’s life, experiencing stigmatization (whether from other people or self-inflicted), can exacerbate the symptoms of their mental health condition.
Breaking the stigma of mental health
When it comes to breaking the stigma around mental health, we all have a part to play. Here are four useful steps you can start taking today:
1. Educate yourself
It’s not exactly possible to speak openly and honestly about something which you know little about; in fact, it likely would do some level of harm by perpetuating misinformation. One of the most powerful ways you can combat the stigma of mental health is by educating yourself.
2. Talk openly about mental health
Think of the topics you regularly talk about with your friends. After exchanging pleasantries, maybe you share how your work is going, your relationships, what your children have been up to — overall, you’re discussing how you’re doing. How often do you discuss mental health?
By incorporating the subject of mental health more frequently into our conversations, we open up a more personal dialogue that encourages people to seek the treatment they need.
3. Choose empowerment over victimizing
People who stigmatize those struggling with mental health conditions often look down on them or view them through a lens of pity. In a similar way, individuals suffering directly from the disease can develop a pathetic view of themselves, adopting the mentality of being a victim.
Reminding these individuals that they are more than their illness is important. They are strong, capable, purposeful people who are not defined alone by their mental health condition.
4. Normalize treatment
By normalizing the seeking and receiving of treatment, we encourage our fellow men and women to be the best they can be, and support them when they struggle to do so. This might look like kindly suggesting treatment to a loved one who could benefit or following through with seeking treatment yourself when you need it.
If you think you or someone you love might be struggling with a mental health condition and you aren’t sure what to do from here, reach out to our team here at Tapestry.
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At Tapestry, we specialize in providing comprehensive treatment to adults and adolescents struggling with eating disorders, substance use disorders, and various mental illnesses.
We recognize that these conditions are rarely isolated, meaning, they’re the result of multiple influences in the person’s life and therefore require a multifaceted approach to treatment. Our evolved approach to behavioral healthcare allows us to support every area of your personhood, enabling you to not only achieve recovery in the short term but enjoy long-lasting healing.
Sometimes we know that we need help, but we aren’t entirely sure what kind, and we aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to figuring that out. Let us help.