Estimated to affect one in four Americans on average, mental illness is often considered to be a silent epidemic. Mental health stigma is a term used when people experiencing mental health issues are perceived negatively because of their condition, and may even face discrimination. Continue reading to learn about ways in which mental health is stigmatized, why this may make treatment more difficult, and what can be done to change society’s outlook on mental health.
How is Mental Health Stigmatized?
Mental health stigma exists in the workplace, in social settings, and even at the doctor’s office. People suffering from mental health issues generally hide their illness from coworkers in fear of losing their job or the respect of their peers. When people learn their significant other, family member, or friend is suffering from a mental illness, they may subconsciously withhold contact or look at them in a less favorable light. Studies also show that doctors are much less likely to follow up with patients battling depression compared with patients battling a physical illness.
Why Does Mental Health Stigma Make Treatment Increasingly Difficult?
Mental health problems do not discriminate and can affect anyone. People suffering from mental health issues may find themselves in a cycle of unstable relationships, difficulty finding and keeping jobs, and even homelessness. Finding a treatment plan that works can be difficult enough without having to deal with the constant fear of rejection and humiliation which often comes along with mental illness. People may avoid treatment in fear of people discovering their mental illness. When people suffering from mental illness feel ostracized, this acts as a catalyst for their condition to become worse.
What Can be Done to Prevent Mental Health Stigma?
In order to put an end to mental health stigma, people need to be educated on the various forms of mental illness. Many people assume mental illness sufferers are dangerous and violent, creating untrue stereotypes and judgements. Schools and workplaces need to improve mental health programs to educate the public and provide support for people who are suffering from mental illness, as well as the people who are affected by it.
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