Ending mental health stigma

One has to wonder why mental illness is so mesmerizing to the public, serving as a subject of movies, much-forwarded online articles, and even water-cooler gossip. A stigma surrounds mental illnesses. Perhaps it is because the human brain is a mystery. Medical illnesses, on the other hand, lack the same fascination. This may be because the general public understands more of the details and has a better understanding of why a person is sick—what exactly is happening to someone’s body.

Illnesses of the brain, while they have been studied extensively, are still not completely understood even by neuroscientists. The general public has even less familiarity with information about neurotransmitters or changes in brain chemistry. And anything unknown appears scarier than it is.

We often hear about mental illness in the context of some character on TV behaving bizarrely, or a killer in the news who’s suspected to be psychologically disturbed. Such portrayals are not helping reduce the social stigma surrounding mental health problems. When a mentally ill person commits a crime, the story gets more attention because of the “mental” component. In reality, these crimes are just as likely to be committed by people without mental disorders. And the vast majority of mental illness sufferers are not criminals or unethical people. One of the most damaging myths in society is that all people with mental illness are violent and dangerous.

From Change 2 Mind foundation fact sheet:
People living with a mental illness are often violent.
FACT: Actually, the vast majority of people living with mental health conditions are no more violent than anyone else. People with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crime.

Read More Fact vs. Fiction on Change 2 Mind

Read More Myths and Facts on mentalhealth.gov

A person may only realize that a stigma exists when they themselves or a loved one are diagnosed. At an already difficult time when they are coping with symptoms or coming to terms with a new diagnosis, a person also has to face societal prejudice.


Our promise:

  • Provide the best care we can in a calm, non-judgmental environment.
  • Work towards your well-being with you and other treatment providers.
  • Provide supporting documentation such as school note or return-to-work letter.
  • Answer all your questions and make sure you are comfortable with all treatment decisions.
  • Continue to educate your family and significant others about mental health.

What you can do:

  • Remember that being diagnosed does not make you or anyone else less deserving of success in school, a good job, a safe home, adequate health care, or meaningful relationships and friendships.
  • Do not use words related to mental illnesses and mental disorders, such as “crazy,” in a negative sense.
  • Show support and understanding to anyone diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
  • If your child encounters a mentally disabled person or child with delayed development, explain that they are the same as any other person and simply may need more patience from others during the interaction.
  • Do not make fun of anyone with a diagnosed psychiatric disorder, including a real person, a TV character or even a cartoon character.
  • Take seriously any claim a person makes regarding intention to harm him- or herself or others; call 911 or emergency hotlines immediately.
  • If someone shares with you feelings of being depressed, encourage them to seek professional help, not to just “cheer up.” Remember, for a mentally ill person this may not be possible without treatment.
  • Speak up when someone is treated unfairly or discriminated again based on their mental health status. It is illegal to discriminate against people with physical or psychiatric disabilities in employment, transportation, communication, or recreation.
  • Social media have become powerful communication tools. “Like” and share pages of organizations that fight stigma and provide support to those affected by mental illnesses.
  • There are many organizations working to build awareness about mental health stigma. Consider getting involved or volunteering at their events:

NAMI It’s Time campaign   www.nami.org/Its Time
Bring Change 2 Mind   www.bringchange2mind.org
Momentum for Mental Health   www.momentumformentalhealth.org
Each Mind Matters    www.eachmindmatters.org
Stand up for Mental Health campaign   www.healthyplace.com/stand-up-for-MH

Articles on Huffington Post may offer additional insight into this matter: