Not too long ago, mental health issues were considered problems that an individual should never talk about or divulge to anyone other than a therapist. It was thought that admitting to a mental health dilemma could negatively impact career advancement and, in some cases, cause job loss. This stigma of mental health lasted for a very long time until the pandemic opened the world’s eyes to what a lockdown could do for anyone’s mental health. Suddenly, everyone had a mental health issue that came from spending too much time in isolation and then being suddenly thrust back into social situations.
As a society, we became more paranoid about germs, anxious about letting anyone into our homes, and depressed at the thought of a world we needed to be afraid of. Mental health was on everyone’s mind, especially the parents of young children and the caregivers of the elderly. We saw the ones we loved suffer because they could not have their family around or learn new technology to see their family on the computer. It took a pandemic to make people realize that mental health is not something to be swept under the rug but rather examined and talked about. There is still a stigma associated with it, however, even in this day and age where we understand more now about the human psyche than at any other time in history.
There are some harsh effects of the existing stigma that still surrounds mental health that can cause lasting and continuous damage to those who suffer. Individuals may be too embarrassed to seek professional help, or that they will be refused help and bullied if they share their problems. Children and young adults who are vulnerable to the opinions of others can suffer at the hands of bullies, or even teachers and parents who don’t understand what they are going through or, worse, don’t believe them. Other effects of mental health being stigmatized include having fewer opportunities for schools, work or social activities, physical violence or harassment, inadequate health insurance, and a belief that nothing will ever get better, which can lead to suicide.
If an individual feels that their mental health issues are stigmatized, they may decide that seeking help is not worth the additional trauma. Especially, if the wrong person finds out. Often kids who feel depressed, anxious, scared, or confused are unable to turn to anyone they know for fear of reprisal. They may have experienced a negative reaction from the first person they told. Or, perhaps they heard derogatory discussions about someone else with mental health issues. This reluctance to seek treatment means that mental health issues will not only stay but likely get worse. Thus, lead to other behaviors like violence or inappropriate behavior.
Mental health issues are difficult to understand for some people. Remember, the older generations did not grow up with the openness of today. Some people with emotional problems may feel that their family and friends don’t understand what they are going through. Or, they think that they are ‘acting out’ to get attention. This may lead to isolation from support systems and withdrawal from social activities and family functions. Some parents may find their children with mental issues retreating into their rooms or behaving in anti-social ways during meals and family discussions.
For those who are interested in helping people with mental health issues, there are CACREP-accredited courses offered online. Schools such as Walsh University allow students to take courses with a flexible schedule that will allow them to work at the same time.
Some individuals with mental health issues may find that they have fewer opportunities for work, school, or social activities. Or, they may be unable to find proper housing. Someone with mental health issues could have a hard time holding a job. Especially, if they are not properly medicated or find it difficult to pay bills. Some people can lead productive and successful lives with treatment. But, if their illness is left unchecked, it can make opportunities for career advancement or building a good credit score unattainable. The stigma that surrounds mental health could make someone look like a credit risk or a bad tenant. Thus, they will be declined a rental application or loan.
Individuals with mental health issues that affect their demeanor and behavior can be targeted by others. These are often those who may not understand or are intolerant. This can result in bullying behavior and even violence or harassment. Children with disorders such as ADHD or Tourette’s often have involuntary movements or hyperactivity. These are obvious and can be singled out by their peers as well as adults around them.
Therapy and medication cost money, so they are not accessible to many individuals with mental health issues. Those afflicted may not be able to hold down a job or go to school. Thus, health insurance is not accessible either. It is a vicious cycle where those who have treatable disorders don’t have the money for treatment. However, also can’t get a job with insurance coverage. Simply because they can’t afford to pay for the medication that would make them employable.
Mental illness can be devastating to the sufferer as well as family members and friends. However, there are ways to work through the stigma and come out the other side stronger and healthier.
This may not be easy but there are free mental health resources that provide a good place to start. If an individual is lucky enough to have a job with medical insurance, then there is no reason not to pursue a treatment option. The benefits of getting treated far outweigh any perceived stigma or possible embarrassment. There are also some organizations that offer employee wellness programs and free counseling.
Aa with actively getting treatment, individuals shouldn’t let the perceived shame of having mental health issues stop them from treatment. Speaking out about the effects of mental illness can have an impact on an individual’s quality of life. Thus, openly expressing the desire for treatment can go a long way to opening the lines of communication. Furthermore, this helps in reducing the stigma of mental health disorders.
Isolation feeds mental illness. Thus, the more isolated an individual becomes the worse the symptoms. Without the stimulation of other people, it becomes almost impossible to know how bad mental illness is getting. Individuals should surround themself with friends and family who care about them. Thus, making it easier for them to find the confidence to seek help. However, this also gives witnesses who can let them know when symptoms are worrying. The more exposure people get to mental health disorders, the more open they will be to seeking treatment and therapy.
Individuals with mental health disorders often define themselves by this disorder rather than as a person with an affliction. This view is the result of generations of stigma around mental health. Opening up about mental health and considering it as just one facet of an individual shows it is not the only thing that makes up the personality of the sufferer.
Support groups are great for helping those with mental health disorders move past the stigma. This is because they can see so many other people with the same issues. Support groups are not just for the individual but also for their support system. Thus, can help open the minds of those who may not understand what the mental health disorder is about. Some workplaces will offer support groups that can be joined online or in person but anonymously.
Workplaces and schools are very open and aware of mental health issues. Thus, usually have programs in place to support those who are suffering. It can be liberating to discuss these problems with human resources or a school counselor. This way someone else can support an individual and provide guidance when necessary.
When someone decides to speak out about mental health issues, they may be surprised at how many other people suffer from the same thing. Encouraging open dialogue puts mental health issues upfront and in the conversation. The more these afflictions are spoken about, the less of a stigma they represent.
Mental health does not come with the same stigma that it used to. But, it is not completely without it either. There are still those who feel that they can’t discuss their issues without reprisal. With open dialogue and positive support, those who suffer from mental health disorders can seek out necessary treatment without fear of being stigmatized.