Ending Stigma Around Mental Illness

If you’ve read my blog on What Is Mental Health Anyway? then you will know that everyone has mental health concerns at time’s throughout their life.  Truly this includes every person, every family, relatives, everyone in school or college, at work and in their home. Everyone! 

Mental Health issues could be due to:

  • a life change
  • losing a job, a home, or not having enough money
  • a death in the family
  • a pet dying
  • being abused
  • having some kind of trauma – including physical injury
  • being diagnosed with a physical illness or mental illness
  • genetics
  • or a host of other reasons.

Why is there a stigma attached to mental health issues and seeking mental health treatment? 

What we learned and incorporated into our “social thinking” from history.

Historical accounts and treatment of mental health, show that people labeled as mentally disturbed were locked up, treated poorly and many even died as a result.

How we were brought up and what our parents or relatives thoughts were on mental health.

Did your family demonstrate understanding, saying “she/he is going through a rough time in their life” or did they use negative labels like “crazy”, “dangerous”, someone to stay away from?

What the community, church or others felt and acted when mental health issues were discussed.

Did people talk about how they were getting help and hoped they would be back soon or was there a silent disapproval, with a “don’t talk about it or that person” implied?

How television, movies and other media portray those with mental illness.

Do the actors portray people with mental health as strong and working through “tough times” or experiencing a “bump in life’s rocky road”? Or does the script show them as sad, someone to feel pity for, angry and abusive, or showing no emotion and doing terrible or horrifying things to others?

Do talk-shows discuss and help those that they interview or do they play “media circus”, putting people with mental health difficulties on stage to entertain the viewers?

The notoriety that is focused on for those, that while a small part of society, do horrific acts.

For instance, school shootings, the “made-famous” psychopaths (ie. Hannibal Lector), mothers who kill their children. Reality is, the vast majority of people with mental health issues are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

How do we end the Stigma?  How do we change our thoughts about mental illness?

  • Be aware and share positive and helpful stories that counter the negative. Luckily, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others) has allowed people who are struggling, recovered, or have gotten support to share their information with others. 
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) advocates for changes to be made that assist rather that stigmatize mental health. Get more information or get involved.  
  • Be a friend. If you know of someone who is experiencing a mental health concern, check in with them, say “hi”, compliment them on something they said or how they look. If possible, be sociable, invite that person out, share a meal, or have a conversation with them.
  • Counter negative comments that you hear. Substitute words or phrases like “we all go through tough times now and then”, “anyone would have a difficult time if …”, “he/she is still a wonderful…” or “I hope I am that strong if ever I get into a similar situation.”
  • Consider writing an editorial with the local paper urging others to be aware of their neighbors needs and help each other during tough times.
  • Overcome your fears and anxieties, know when you need additional help, and make an appointment with a mental health therapist.

Here at Health Affiliates Maine, we truly are concerned for your welfare and the welfare of your family.  We are knowledgeable, highly trained, and really do know a lot about how to help you and your loved ones cope with your emotions and to get the skills to help yourself!

Everyone needs help now and then…Don’t wait. Call today for services. 

 

 

Author: Cynthia Booker-Bingler, LCSW, Health Affiliates Maine

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