Common Stigmas in Mental Health and How to Increase Awareness

Published On: May 5, 2023|Categories: Mental Health|
Studio shot of a young woman with a label saying “I’m fine” covering her mouth against a black background

The way other people perceive us is important. Not only does it help us assess our own actions and behaviors, but it can guide the way we interact with others and the decisions we make. 

While some social feedback is helpful, other feedback is not. Often, the responses we receive from others can be damaging. Comments and opinions of others can be hurtful, especially when it comes to mental health.

Mental health stigma can cause serious adverse effects and prevent people from seeking treatment. In this article, we’ll look at the common stigmas regarding mental health and how an increase in mental health awareness can reverse the negative tide into a more constructive outlook.

The stigmas in mental health

Stigma refers to a set of unfair or negative beliefs that a group of people have about another group. Stigma often causes individuals to feel a sense of shame or to hide certain things about themselves.

Stigma can stem from a variety of sources, whether it is a political perspective, the viewpoint of a family or a cultural stance. Regardless of the source, stigma can affect anyone and can be experienced in many different ways, often affecting certain minority groups differently. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, studies demonstrate that although many people understand and accept the gravity of a mental health diagnosis and the need for treatment. There is still a pervasive culture that holds a negative view of individuals with mental illness.

Common stigmas about mental health

According to a study in the journal World Psychiatry, there are three categories of stigmas about mental health that grow out of misconceptions regarding mental illness:

  1. Fear and exclusion: people with mental illness should be feared and denied access to places, groups or privileges
  2. Authoritarianism: those with mental illness are irresponsible and decisions should be made for them
  3. Benevolence: those with mental illness are like children and need to be cared for

Many stigmas regarding those with mental illness are based on one of these three misconceptions. Other stigmas in mental health include ideas that those with disorders are uneducated, poor, unable to change themselves, worthy of pity and violent. 

Mental health stigmas can also exist in regard to specific minorities or groups. For example, there may be a stigma that only women struggle with bipolar disorder because of extreme mood swings, or that only men face substance use disorder and should be able to overcome it without treatment.

Mental health awareness

Stigmas in mental health can be damaging on multiple levels. Most often, a stigma that comes from others or the individuals themselves can prevent seeking treatment. People often fear reaching out for help, even when symptoms of mental distress are severe or life-threatening.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the following are common dangers of mental health stigmas.

  • Decreased hope
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Increased psychiatric symptoms (like anxiety, restlessness, self-harm, etc)
  • Difficulties in social relationships
  • Reduced likelihood of treatment retention
  • More difficulties at work

Understanding the barriers that individuals with mental illness face is important in accessing and administering treatment, and advocating for mental illness on a broad scale. Increasing mental health awareness can impact individuals, families, societies and institutions and reduce discriminatory behavior.

The National Alliance on Mental Health lists ways that individuals can spread mental health awareness through advocacy. Here are their recommendations:

  • Show support for someone with a mental illness who needs help
  • Volunteer at a local mental health organization
  • Attend an awareness event that benefits the mental health movement, such as attending a fundraiser
  • Encourage politicians to prioritize mental health
  • Respectfully correct those who use stigmatizing language

Learning about mental health stigmas and participating in discussions about the harms negative beliefs can have on individuals can promote empathy and give you the language and tools you need to educate others.

Pushing past mental health stigmas for the treatment you need

If mental health stigma is affecting your daily life and even causing your symptoms of mental illness to become worse, it’s time to commit to treatment. Finding support for a mental health disorder is most important when those in your life are opposed to showing support themselves.

The distress brought on by others’ opinions can be difficult to overcome, but pushing past that barrier is in your best interest. Getting help for a mental health condition will improve your mood, your quality of life, your interactions with others and your view of yourself.

If stigma has prevented you from seeking treatment for a substance use or mental health disorder, contact  Pyramid Healthcare. You’ll find compassionate and accepting professionals who can help you reclaim your health and well-being.

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