Many people who struggle with mental health disorders do not seek help. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, as many as 70% of people struggle with a mental health disorder on a global scale. Among the various reasons people avoid seeking help is because they have reservations about being treated differently by their family, friends, and strangers. Consequently, when undiagnosed and untreated, your symptoms can lead to a loss of professional or personal relationships.
Such reservations might occur as the result of the personal and public stigmatization that surrounds mental health disorders. These stigmas perpetuate false narratives, prejudice, out-of-context depictions, and an overall discernment of misinformation surrounding mental health disorders as a whole. The amount of prejudice can vary from subtle to obvious, though each can lead to harm. People with mental health disorders often become marginalized and discriminated against in various ways; however, understanding what the stigma looks like and addressing and eradicating it can help.
Let's explore further how stigmas hinder your motivation to get help and what you can do to combat these stigmas.
Stigmas in Our Culture
Stigmas become born due to a lack of information and understanding surrounding a particular subject. Inappropriate or misleading media representations of mental illness also contribute to both those factors. Studies show that while the public might accept a mental health issue, many may still negatively perceive those with a mental health disorder. Such stigmas control the narrative for those unwilling or uneducated about mental health and its relationship with addiction diseases and other disorders.
Three different types of stigma are identified, including public stigma, which involves the negative or discriminatory perceptions and attitudes that others have about mental health disorders. The next is self-stigma which refers to the negative attitudes, including shame and guilt for struggling with mental health. Finally, the third is institutional stigma; this is more systemic, intentionally or unintentionally involving an organization limiting opportunities for people with mental health disorders. Examples include reduced funding for mental illness research and education or mental health-related services.
Effects of Stigmas In the Workplace
Stigma can worsen preexisting symptoms related to your mental health disorder, especially self-stigma. This form of stigma directly affects the personal perception of self. Effects can include:
- Low self-esteem
- Increased psychiatric system
- Poor relationships
- Difficulties at work
Such effects are pervasive and can translate into all facets of your life, from feeling less motivated to seek help, help others, mind your health, and even dictate choosing what you will eat for supper. Each can lead to social isolation — you might feel misunderstood by family and friends.
In a professional setting, mental health stigmas are a significant challenge. In a study reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about half of the employees studied expressed concern about discussing mental health issues at their place of work. More than one in three were concerned about retaliation or losing their job if they sought care. Only about one in five workers was completely comfortable talking about mental health issues. While new policies and acts have passed to ensure a workplace strives to open a conversation about mental health to provide a comfortable, safe, and judge-free setting for employees, many still feel uncomfortable and apprehensive. However, on an encouraging note, approximately half of the workers were somewhat comfortable talking about mental health issues.
Part of advocating awareness begins with having or knowing someone with a mental health disorder. Speaking out and sharing your story has a positive impact. When you make your story heard, it helps make it more relatable to someone who may or may not be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The effort includes talking openly about sharing your mental health experiences. Continue to educate yourself and others by responding to misconceptions negative comments; this includes being conscious of word choice and reminding others that words matter. Encourage equality between physical and mental illness. Try to draw comparisons on how you or another would treat someone with cancer or diabetes. Exercising honesty further helps to normalize mental health treatment just like other various healthcare treatments.
Finally, choose empowerment over shame and guilt. You can use a positive affirmation; “I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life.” Choosing to own your life and your experiences helps strengthen your voice to telling your story. In turn, it will keep others from dictating how you view yourself or how you feel about yourself.
While stigma and discrimination remain prevalent in society, the efforts by those with mental health disorders as well as other educated advocates are increasingly addressing stigma against mental illness. While it begins with educating the public, it will also take efforts from healthcare providers to emphasize the importance of care services and break the silence that surrounds the topic of mental illness. At START UP RECOVERY, we are an environment that includes a network and staff of trained and educated individuals who help bring global understanding surrounding mental health and mental health services. We are motivated to connect you with others that will offer you the safe and supportive environment you need to flourish and grow into your best self. Our belief lies in the ability to transform ourselves. With a sunny Southern California location near the beach, you will never be short of positive energy. Remember, the journey to pursuing your best life begins by taking that first step to getting help. To learn more, call START UP at 310-773-3809.