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It’s Time to Stop the Stigmatization of Mental Illnesses

Almost one in every five US people has experienced mental health or substance abuse issues. Unfortunately, more than half of such people opt not to receive help or treatment mainly due to the fear of discrimination, stigmatization and prejudice projected towards them from others. Often, people with mental health issues are marginalized, called different names, or fired from their jobs. Consequently, it becomes harder to recover from the illness.

It is high time to spread awareness about, discuss and normalize mental health problems to stop the stigmatization of such issues.

Why do people stigmatize mental illnesses?

People with mental illness feel stigma due to public, self, or institutional factors, including:

  • Lack of awareness about mental illnesses among the public.
  • Misperceptions about mentally ill people.
  • Internal fears of being marginalized.
  • Previous negative events of discrimination and prejudice, such as getting fired from a job.
  • Less open talks about mental health.
  • Over-judgement of substance abuse issues.

Impacts of stigmatization:

The stigmatization of mentally ill people can lead to serious outcomes such as:

  • Feelings of shame and hopelessness.
  • Social isolation.
  • Avoidance of treatment.
  • Unemployment
  • Self-doubt and lack of confidence.
  • Reluctance to seek help.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Internalization of negative thoughts.

How to cope with the stigmatization of mental illnesses?

It is necessary to fight this stigmatization of mental health issues to preserve and promote mental health. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the following measures need to be taken to stop this discrimination and prejudice against mental illnesses.

  1. Educate yourself and others about mental illnesses by sharing personal stories or awareness campaigns.
  2. Talk openly about mental health issues instead of opting for subtle and implicit ways. It would slowly normalize things about mental health issues.
  3. Do not use discriminated phrases or words for people with mental illnesses because words like “mad” or “disabled” can offend and shatter the confidence of mentally ill people.
  4. Establish equality between physical and mental illness because it can change people’s perspectives about mental health issues.
  5. Show empathy and compassion for the mentally ill. People should understand that just like a physical illness, a patient is not responsible for his illness. He needs your care and compassion, not the burden of guilt.
  6. Follow treatment plans and be honest about them. It is often observed that people avoid treatments and develop fears of discrimination due to mental health issues. However, without following treatment plans, it is not possible to cope with this stigma.
  7. Inform media if you feel being stigmatized. Instead of bearing all the stigma and discrimination, we should inform the media about any reports that can offend a mentally ill person.

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