Learning How to Cope with Mental Health Stigma
Millions of Americans suffer from mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety on a daily basis. Despite this, there is still a significant stigma attached to people who have a mental health condition. By definition, stigma is the act of an individual negatively viewing someone due to a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that is thought to be a disadvantage. Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs are common concerning individuals with mental health conditions. This is considered the stigma of mental health.
Frequently, stigma leads to discrimination. Discrimination may be blatant and direct, such as people making negative comments about your mental health condition. On the other hand, discrimination may be subtle, such as someone avoiding you because they assume your mental health condition causes you to be dangerous or violent. Stigma and discrimination may lead individuals with mental health conditions to judge themselves, refuse to ask for help, and experience a worsening in symptoms. To avoid this, continue reading to learn more about what stigma is and how to cope with it.
The Mental Health Stigma
The stigma surrounding mental health is divided into two distinct types. To begin, social stigma is characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviors directed towards people with mental health conditions because of the psychiatric diagnosis they have received. On the other hand, self-stigma or perceived stigma is the internalizing by the sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination that they have experienced. Unfortunately, self-stigma often leads to significant feelings of shame and worsened symptoms of a mental health condition.
The social stigma concerning mental health conditions has multiple causes. For starters, historically speaking, people with mental health conditions have been treated differently, excluded, and even brutalized. This may be a result of the misconception that people with mental health problems are more violent or unpredictable than neurotypical people. Additionally, early beliefs about the causes of mental health conditions include demonic or spirit possession, causing individuals to become fearful.
Dangerous effects of mental health stigma concerning individuals with a mental health condition may include:
- 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 health treatment
- The belief that you’ll never succeed at specific challenges or that you can’t improve your situation
Despite medical evidence, many individuals still believe in and perpetuate aspects of the mental health stigma.
Even the medical model of mental health problems is a source of stigmatizing beliefs. For example, the medical model implies that mental health conditions are on par with physical illnesses and may result from medical or physical dysfunction in some way. This causes people to believe that mental health conditions are inherently evil, making individuals discriminate against people with such conditions.
Coping with the Stigma of Mental Health
A large part of coping with and fighting against any kind of stigma is through awareness. When individuals are aware of the facts about mental health conditions, their discriminatory thoughts may dissipate. Additionally, individuals with mental health issues should learn about the social stigma they face while learning how to cope with it. Here are a few constructive methods that you can use to cope with the stigma of mental health.
Talk About It
Frequently, people suffer from a fear of the unknown. In other words, individuals who do not understand mental health conditions are more prone to exacerbate the stigma of them. Talking about your mental health condition with friends and loved ones helps them to know what you are going through. Additionally, when talking about mental health, it is best to use the term “mental health condition” rather than “mental illness.” This is because the phrasing we use can cause individuals with little knowledge of mental health to become fearful or wary.
Learn About Yours or Your Loved One’s Condition
Another great tool when coping with the far-reaching effects of stigma is to learn about your condition, the symptoms, and how they affect your daily life. Also, it is extremely important to determine how the symptoms of your mental health condition are managed. By learning about your mental condition, you can begin to educate your family and friends as well. In doing so, your loved ones will start to understand and sympathize with you. Additionally, your loved ones will be able to keep you accountable if you begin to slack on your self-care and symptom management techniques.
Join a Mental Health Support Group
It is ubiquitous for individuals with mental health conditions to feel alone. Feelings of loneliness often come from experiencing stigma, as well as believing no one understands them. As a result, joining a mental health support group can be highly beneficial. During mental health support groups, participants are able to connect and gain support from others who struggle with the same diagnosis. If you or a loved one suffer from a mental health condition, joining a mental health support group could make a significant difference in your recovery.
Mental Health Assistance at Voices of Mental Health
If you or a loved one are suffering from an unmanaged mental health condition, help is available. Many individuals decide to seek mental health treatment once they determine their daily functioning has been impaired. Attending a residential or outpatient mental health treatment program can save your life, help you to rebuild, and teach you how to manage your diagnosis. Contact Voices of Mental Health today if you are interested in receiving mental health resources and treatment.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
Cayla Clark, BA
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.