Let’s Break Mental Health Stigma Together

BY: Laura Pinzón | Neighbors’ Consejo|

“Are you crazy?” “That’s not normal!” “You know, better stay away…” These and other similar phrases are undoubtedly some that we have heard when someone expressed their feelings to another or when someone said they needed help from a mental health specialist.

This social barrier creates fear in people to face their emotional well-being condition. “Stigma often comes from lack of understanding of fear. Inaccurate or misleading media representations of mental illness contribute to both those factors”. According to researchers from the American Psychiatric Association, there are three types of stigma: Public stigma, Self-stigma and Institutional stigma [1] .

According to the Mayo Clinic [2] , among the detrimental effects caused by the social pressure of stigma are: 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; and the belief that you’ll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation.

Nevertheless, society is improving. A recent survey [3]  indicates that people in the U.S consider that those who suffer from a mental health condition should not be rejected from society, that on the contrary, they should be offered constant support. 

For this reason, it is important to disprove together the myths [4]  that create and perpetuate the stigma of mental health: Children do not experience mental health problems – False. “Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old”. People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable – False. “Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3% – 5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with serious mental illness”. Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems – False. “Mental health problems have nothing to do with lazy or weak and many people need help to get better”. These are but a few among many other myths.

So, if you are still among those who believe in these myths which only increase the stigma of mental health in our society, you should start by visiting professionals and consult truthful information to understand that we can all have some condition affecting our emotional well-being that needs to be supported by others. Just as we have a regular physical check-up to see that our bodies are doing well, we should do likewise to see that our mental/emotional well-being is as good as can be.

References

 [1] https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination

 [2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health/art-20046477

 [3] https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.11.3.186

 [4] https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts

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