Although mental health stigma has declined over the last year, it is still a major issue. Here are some ideas on how to recognize and reduce it.
Mental health stigma affects how we perceive psychiatric disorders. It also affects self-esteem and progress in mental health treatment. This post contains more information about mental health stigma and how to reduce it.
Definition of Stigma
I’m sure most of you have heard about mental health stigma and know what it is. For those of you who do not know much about it, here is the definition of stigma by Mayo Clinic.
Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype).
Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness (Mayo Clinic)
My Recent Observations about Stigma
Now that you know the definition of stigma, I will explain the reason I’m writing about this topic. A few days ago, I heard several people talking about a man who had a mental illness. They used labels like irresponsible, crazy, incompetent, stupid/r*******, etc. Even though I knew they were not talking about me, their comments made me feel very uncomfortable. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way.
One of the problems is that unlike physical illnesses, people cannot see mental illnesses. So even if someone is diagnosed with one, people might assume that they are “not trying hard enough to fix it.” What they need to realize is that a mental illness cannot actually be fixed. It can be treated, but negative comments and assumptions do not help the issue. They just make it worse.
Making harsh remarks about people with mental illnesses brings me to my next point: Often times, people are not mindful about others’ issues. It’s difficult to pay attention to other people’s struggles when you are dealing with your own stress. No, this is not an excuse to be insensitive. But it is important to keep this in mind when thinking about the reasons for mental health stigma.