Choose to Challenge (and Overcome) Mental Health Stigma

Overcome mental health stigma. Mother hugging her daughter, smiling.
Written by David Davenport – Contributing Author Healing Arts Institute

We don’t like to talk about mental illness.

Most of the time we pretend it doesn’t exist, we avoid discussing its effects, and therefore end up propagating the effects to the people closest to us.

The truth is we treat people with mental health challenges much different than if they had a physical illness.

Why though?

Our brains are like any other organ. Sometimes things go wrong, and our brains can get hurt. Sometimes it’s genetic, sometimes it’s from trauma or stress. Whatever the cause, our hurt brains can change our behaviors and emotional states.

We wouldn’t hesitate to seek a doctor’s help if we seriously injured our physical bodies. But the stigma of seeking treatment for mental health conditions prevents almost HALF of all people with depression or anxiety asking for professional help. [3]

As a society, we can’t go on like this. But there are a few simple things that you can do to begin chipping away at the stigma of asking for help.

Cultural Stigma Can be a Real Problem

As if it weren’t challenging enough to address the taboo of mental illness, some communities will shun people who they perceive to be suffering from mental or emotional challenges. [4] This outdated point of view is still too prevalent in African American and Latino communities which makes it even more difficult for people who are suffering to speak up.

Healing Arts Institute treats many clients from these underserved communities. It is part of an unfortunate reality that we are fighting to correct every day.

Support People that You Know Are Suffering 

There is no feeling that is more desperate than that of isolation. People have an uncanny ability to adapt to adverse conditions. Sometimes that means pretending that everything is alright, even if they are desperately suffering on the inside.

We oftentimes hear about people who have taken their own lives who we thought were happy and well-adjusted individuals. Don’t hesitate to show compassion towards anyone that you believe may be struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental challenges.

Strive to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Always encourage others around you to do the same.

Talk Openly About Mental Health

Don’t be afraid to bring up topics of mental health with your friends and family. You might be surprised how many of them will open up to you with their own experiences. People will be silent as long as they feel marginalized. The moment they realize others are willing to accept them, it could change their entire worldview.  

Social media for all of its faults is an amazing avenue to reach out and connect with others struggling with mental illness. The internet provides an anonymous haven from ridicule and judgment allowing people from all walks of life to share their stories. [2]

Treat People with Mental Health Challenges No Differently Than if They Had Physical Injuries

We wouldn’t shun someone if they broke their leg or twisted their ankle. We wouldn’t be afraid of someone who is recovering from surgery. Why then are we so quick to do so with people grappling with depression or other mental health challenges?

Our brains are the physical organs responsible for our emotional and behavioral health. And like any other organ, sometimes things can go wrong. We should always remember that effective treatments are available to help people when they do.

If You Are Struggling, Don’t Give in to Shame

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are incredibly common. If you are struggling with one of these, don’t think that you’re alone! You are not the problem, and there are millions of others just like you who are going through similar difficulties.

Be brave.

Reach out to whoever you can and let them know that you need help. Tell a friend, a trusted family member, anybody who you trust.

Don’t live another day thinking that you have anything to be ashamed of! You don’t. And you don’t need to justify that to anyone.

Healing Arts Institute trains and employs professional therapists who can help you or someone you love who is having trouble with depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental challenges. We specialize in delivering culturally competent therapeutic care to our clients in a safe and welcoming environment.

Visit us today and ask how we can help.

Citations:
  1. “Addressing Stigma.” Center for Addiction and Mental Health, 2021, www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/addressing-stigma.
  2. Betton, Victoria, et al. “The Role of Social Media in Reducing Stigma and Discrimination.” British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 206, no. 6, 2015, pp. 443–444., doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.114.152835.
  3. Greenstein, Luna. “9 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.” National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2017, www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/october-2017/9-ways-to-fight-mental-health-stigma.
  4. Seeman, Neil. “Use Data to Challenge Mental-Health Stigma.” Nature, vol. 528, no. 7582, 2015, p. 309. Crossref, doi:10.1038/528309a.

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