Sometimes, all we need is to be believed. Believed that our emotions are true. Believed that we have no control over them. Believed that we are not faking it.
Sometimes all we need is a person to turn to when going through mental health issues.
Sometimes all we need is non-judgemental support from our friends and family.
Sometimes all we need is to hear that everything will be alright.
And all this becomes challenging because of the harsh reality of mental health treatment stigma. Millions of people worldwide are victims of mental health stigma that makes them reluctant to seek treatment. This stigma is creating a crisis. It creates shame and guilt and prevents people from taking proper care.
So, let’s understand the problem of mental health stigma and how it makes the lives of people undergoing mental health issues more challenging.
The problem: what is the stigma around mental health?
Why are people still scared to talk about mental health issues?
It is because of the mental health stigma. What are these stigmas? These are some of the negative approaches from people toward the concept of mental health issues and treatments.
Mental health stigma can start with discrimination; people with mental health issues are not given employment, housing, en education. They are deprived of minimal healthcare benefits. Sometimes school doesn’t try to understand the behavioral pattern of students who undergo mental health issues, which can cause a lot of stress for them. These schools are not sensitive toward students suffering from mental health illnesses and comment that they only belong to ‘special schools’.
Another main cause of this problem is how the media negatively portrays mental illness. It is believed that people with mental health issues are either violent, unable to function, and don’t belong in society. This creates an environment where society blames and shames people with mental health illnesses. They make them feel that their condition is their fault. This increases the mental health stigma that one should stay away from and avoid people suffering from mental health, which can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion.
The result of all this negative stigma gets to people with mental health issues, and they develop “self-stigma”. They start feeling ashamed about their condition, avoid going for treatments, and develop low self-esteem.
Now, let’s understand what the source of this problem is.
The source: What causes mental health stigma?
Mental health stigma can be a result of many societal factors. These stigmas are the barriers to seeking mental health care. Addressing the source of mental health stigma can help promote more accepting views regarding mental health and reduce the negativity around it. Here are some of the reasons that can lead to mental health stigmas.
1. Lack of mental health awareness
When it comes to mental health treatment stigma, it is generally due to the lack of awareness among people regarding mental health and how mental health treatments work. Awareness about mental health is essential because it helps early identification and prevents the symptoms from worsening. This lack of understanding leads to discrimination and mental health stigma because people develop their “own definitions” of a person suffering from mental health issues. They term them “crazy”, “violent,” and “unsocialized” people. This has a tremendous negative impact on mental health and treatments.
Even people suffering from mental health issues cannot recognize their feelings, and their disorder persists. They think that it’s just a phase and will pass away. This neglect can make their condition worse.
2. Negative media
Have you witnessed that whenever you are watching a show or a movie, people with mental health issues are generally portrayed as “crazy”, “violent,” “hurt people”, “don’t know how to function,” and “dangerous”?
This negative display has caused a stigma that mental health issues can never be treated and people who are mentally ill should be avoided and isolated. This creates negativity and hatred toward people suffering from mental health issues, creating a much more challenging time for them.
Even after suffering from mental health issues, people don’t come forward to take proper care and treatment because of the negative stigma around it. They have a fear of being labeled different hurtful names. This fear makes them very insecure, and they neglect their mental health. They don’t look out for the symptoms, and then it worsens.
They also fear treatment plans because they don’t want to be termed ‘mentally ill’ for the rest of their lives. They fear that people will isolate and stay away from them, thinking of them as dangerous. To break down this fear, the stigma around mental health needs to be resolved.
4. Historical misconceptions
The idea of mental health has been negative and neglected since time immemorial. Mental health doesn’t exist for some people; feelings are just a phase. As a common cold, it will, too, go away. Such people ask you to forget and not talk about these feelings to get better. They believe these mental health issues entirely depend on your mindset, and if you want to be happy, you’ll be happy. They lack empathy and support toward patients suffering from mental illnesses.
This belief system that originated a very long time causes a lot of mental health treatment stigma, so many patients don’t opt for proper treatment.
The need: Why do you need to talk about mental health issues?
When talking about mental health, people always take a step behind. Either they believe that nothing as ‘mental health ‘ exists and the people suffering from mental health are weak. Due to this, a maximum number of people don’t talk about their mental health issues or take the proper treatment. The topic ‘mental health’ should be normalized to reduce mental health stigma.
Starting from the ground level, mental health should be discussed within the family. Talk and spend time with your family members or relatives who understand your situation if you suffer from mental health issues. This will reduce mental health stigma and also make you feel good, and you’ll feel a sense of support.
Schools are the second most crucial place to spread awareness and discuss mental health. Schools are the place that shapes our values and beliefs. Suppose the school curriculum and the teachers talk about mental health and are sensitive toward students suffering from mental health issues. In that case, mental health stigma around that subject will decrease among the other students.
Similarly, mental health stigma can be reduced in the workplace by discussing the employees’ mental health issues and giving them the required assistance. Workplace burnout can cause various mental health issues for employees and employers. This can cause a decrease in productivity and motivation to work. This will help encourage the employees to help others undergoing mental health issues and support them.
The Concern: What are the effects of mental health treatment stigma?
Mental health treatment stigma can adversely affect a person’s life going through mental health illnesses or disorders. They affect both the physical and mental aspects of their life. Due to this, their symptoms get worse as they avoid treatment and self-blame themselves. Here are some of the effects of mental health treatment:
1. Delay in treatment:
Due to all the negative mental health treatment stigma, patients fear going for therapy, counseling, and other treatment, and their disorders persist. They think that their condition cannot get better with these treatments. They fear getting labeled by other people. Due to this, their symptoms get worse over time. This can adversely affect their physical health also. They don’t take proper care of themselves and neglect their discomfort.
Mental health stigma lowers the self-esteem of people undergoing mental health issues. They feel bad about themselves and constantly say negative things to their body and mind. This leads to decreased self-esteem and self-compassion
3. Feelings of shame
Mental health stigma can generate shame among the people suffering because these stigmas blame them for their condition. They feel that it’s their fault and are ashamed of themselves. This can lead to thoughts of self-harm and increased symptoms of mental health issues. They think of themselves as a burden and feel bad about their existence.
4. Feeling isolated
Since the stigmas suggest that one should stay away from a person with mental health issues, they feel isolated. This social stigma makes it difficult for them to mix with people or cultivate new relationships. They always feel like they are alone. This develops social anxiety in them. When someone is suffering through a mental health issue, the essential thing they need is support. Due to mental health stigma, they lack support, and their mental health can get worse.
The solution: How can you overcome it?
Mental health treatment stigma can make your mental health journey challenging. But don’t worry; you are not alone. Despite people who try to make you feel bad by being insensitive, there are support groups and people aware of mental health which can make you feel safe and supported. There are many ways to cope with mental health treatment stigma, and here are some of them that might be helpful for you:
1. Your treatment is important
These stigmas can make you reluctant to take the required treatment. But you must remember that you can always get better with the help of a proper treatment plan. They can help you understand your feelings which will make you feel better. The negative side of treatment being shown is improper, and you can only see it if you start your treatment plan.
2. Don’t let the stigma consume you
It is hard to avoid all the negative comments about your mental health from people around you. But you should try and stay away from them as much as possible. These negative comments don’t define you.
If you let them take over you, your mental health will be adversely affected. We know it’s difficult to be okay with all this; take your time. You don’t have to do anything that you are not comfortable with. Slowly try to get yourself out of all these negative comments and embrace your feelings. Whatever you are feeling is valid.
3. You deserve support
Don’t ever think that you don’t deserve support. Some people might isolate or avoid you; they are just ignorant about mental health issues. You deserve support; many support groups can make you feel completely comfortable.
These support groups discuss different mental health issues and try to normalize them. Also, there are various types of support groups. You can join anyone and attend meetings with them. Continuing there will boost your mental health if they make you feel better.
4. Say your word against it
We are generally advised not to say anything against some, even if they are hurtful to us. Though it is true because that is a great way to avoid negativity if you are constantly being commented on or bullied because of your mental health, stop them.
Express your discomfort. You can also take on social media platforms to express your discomfort and educate people that bullying or labeling people with mental health issues is not okay. Doing this can be challenging work. There’s no must to do this; if you are comfortable, go for it.
Sometimes, our lack of knowledge about something that is bothering us can lead to self – stigmatization. Examples of self-stigma may include saying to yourself that whatever you are feeling is incorrect, that these feelings are just a phase, and that you don’t need treatment. The best way of this is educating yourself about mental health and issues.
If you are going through a mental health discomfort, try and learn about it. Talk to professionals or contact people going through similar issues. Learn different coping mechanisms with them. And avoid fake news that spreads wrong information about mental health treatments.
6. Don’t be hard on yourself
In all this, remember that you are doing your best. Try not to say hurtful things to yourself like, ‘I can’t get better’ or ‘Why, out of everyone, do I have to face this’. You can always get better if you are taking the proper care. You can achieve anything; keep motivating yourself and not lose hope. Being hard on yourself will take you backward in your journey. So embrace your journey and appreciate how far you’ve come. Try practicing positive affirmations to avoid negative thoughts.
7. Talk about it
Talking about your feelings and venting can let the load off your shoulders. Sometimes we just need to express the emotions within us. This can help you feel relaxed and channel your thoughts in a positive direction. So find someone who you can trust and not feel judged by and talk to them about your mental health issues. They can help you and be your support system.
8. Take care of yourself
Self-care activities are the best thing you can practice during this time. These activities can help you stay happy and relaxed. It will motivate you and elevate self-love and self-compassion. Many self-care activities, like meditation, journaling, sleeping and eating at the right time, positive self-talk, yoga and exercises, and other activities, can boost your mental health.
9. Set boundaries
When you find that certain people in your life are constantly being negative about your mental health and mean and insensitive towards you, you need to set boundaries with them. You can slowly stop engaging with them and cut ties with them.
We know it’s hard to cut ties and avoid people who were a part of your life. But if staying away from them brings you peace, you need to take the step. You’ll find people supporting your journey and making you feel good about yourself. Surround yourself with these kinds of people to feel positive and good.
Believe in yourself, believe in your instincts, believe in your thoughts, and believe in your actions. This will help build confidence in yourself and your abilities. Believing in yourself is the key to better mental and physical health. It’s okay to make mistakes because everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Believe that you are doing your best. This will help you face all the obstacles and achieve your goal.
Mental health treatment stigma is a serious issue that affects individuals and communities. We all deserve a non-judgemental place to discuss mental health issues and not be rejected. Mental health issues should be taken seriously. This will help people get the required treatment without being judged or shamed. If you know someone suffering from this stigma, help them by educating them and others about mental health issues, the treatments relating to them, and how mental health should be normalized.
And if you are suffering from these stigmas, take care of yourself. You are doing your best. You should sometimes come forward and speak against this negativity. You can also work on various self-care activities to help boost your mental health and take your mind off this stressful situation. To know more, click here.