Nearly one in five Americans live with a mental illness and nearly half of Americans will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. However, many people who experience mental illness are faced with stigma due to societal misunderstandings.
Here at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates, our mission is to spread awareness about the stigma of mental illness while providing high-quality, accessible psychiatric care. In this blog post, we’ll talk about what causes this stigma and why reducing it is so important.
What is mental illness stigma?
Mental illness stigma refers to negative beliefs and attitudes towards people with mental illnesses. This stigma can then lead to discrimination, such as avoiding those with mental illness or treating them negatively due to their diagnosis. Many times, people with mental illness might also hold internalized negative views about themselves.
Unfortunately, many people misunderstand mental illnesses and hold outdated beliefs about those living with mental illness. This can cause people to hold incorrect and stigmatizing beliefs, such as thinking that people with mental illnesses are:
- Acting out for attention
These beliefs can lead to discrimination and cause further harm, such as:
- Lack of understanding by friends and family
- Reduced work opportunities
- Harassment and violence
- Reduced quality of life
- Discrimination in personal relationships
Stigma can be so pervasive that it even affects the way that people with mental illness perceive themselves. Self-stigma can cause those with a mental health diagnosis to apply negative stigma and stereotypes about their condition to themselves.
How to reduce mental illness stigma
The number one tool we have to reduce mental illness stigma is education. Here are some simple steps you can take to fight mental illness stigma in your own community.
Your illness is not your identity
You are more than your mental illness. Especially when you are first diagnosed, it can be overwhelming. Many people prefer person-first language for this reason, choosing to describe themselves as “someone with bipolar disorder” or “someone with schizophrenia” rather than saying, “I’m bipolar” or “I’m schizophrenic.”
At the same time, try not to use mental health terms flippantly to describe yourself or others. While many people say things like “he’s OCD” or “she’s bipolar,” it can cause stigma by conflating personality traits and behaviors with serious mental health conditions.
Join a support group
Support groups can not only help you navigate the challenges of your mental condition, but they can also create an incredible sense of community and help reduce stigma overall. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers incredible programs and online groups for those with mental illnesses, their families, and the general public.
Speak out against stigma
One of the best ways to reduce mental health stigma is by talking openly and honestly about the issue. Even though half of us will struggle with mental health at some point in our lives, many people feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it. If you are in treatment, it can be affirming and rewarding to talk about your experiences with your friends and family.
Even if you are not in treatment, you can always speak out when you hear those around you using stigmatized language or treating those with mental illnesses poorly.
Be a role model
Even if you have a mental illness, you might still hold negative beliefs about those with mental illness due to internalized stigma. That’s why it’s important to model the language and behavior that you would like to see others use.
Just like any other health condition, mental illnesses are not your fault and they can be treated. Here at Boston Neurobehavioral, we offer comprehensive psychiatric and psychological treatment for a broad range of mental health concerns. Whether you have been diagnosed with OCD, depression, anxiety, or any other mental condition, we can help you.
If you’ve been struggling with your mental health, don’t suffer from shame and stigma any longer. Contact Dr. Mohammad Munir and our team at Boston Neurobehavioral Associates today using our convenient online booking form. We have six Boston area offices and offer telehealth appointments so that you can get the help you need no matter where you are.