Stigma about those who suffer from mental health disorders has a profound effect on the possibility of getting the right treatment. There are many reasons those with mental illnesses don’t seek help, including a lack of support from family or friends, a lack of knowledge, the fear of telling someone about their problem, and even discrimination. Stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be eliminated in order to put an end to these injustices. Some of the other consequences of stigma include:
-Inadequate coverage by insurance companies for mental health issues.
-Living in constant fear, and for some, with the threat of violence.
-Facing mistrust, neglect, and abuse from family members.
-Experiencing discrimination in schools, the workplace, and even in healthcare facilities.
Stigma is taking a toll on sufferers of mental illness across the country. Statistics reveal that out of the 1 in 4 Americans who have a mental illness, only about ¼ actually end up receiving treatment. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability across the globe, with severe depression being the most common cause of disability in the United States. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder are also at the top of the list.
Americans also spend about $70 billion on mental health services, with almost $80 billion lost due to decreased productivity indirectly caused by mental illness.
Despite statistics that show the impact of mental illness on Americans, the stigma surrounding the issue continues to pervade. The idea that mental illness is a sign of personal weakness, rather than a legitimate illness, continues to be a common perception among many in this country. This type of attitude only encourages misunderstanding, fear, and prejudice towards those who need help the most. Someone who is forced to deal with these misconceptions about their illness faces a significant obstacle to getting treatment, as well as feelings of frustration, anger, self hatred, and shame about their disorder. The effects of stigma on a person’s life can include things such as:
-Denying that anything is wrong, or pretending that the disorder doesn’t exist.
-Refusing to get treatment.
-Living with the threat of, or experiencing rejection from family, friends, or other loved ones.
-Experiencing conflicts at school, work, or in other areas.
-Having difficulty finding basic housing.
-Being the victim of harassment, or physical abuse or violence.
-Not having proper health care coverage for the disorder.
Coping with stigma: How it can be done.
A person suffering from mental illness will need to accept their condition and recognize that they need to get treatment in order to make changes to their life. There is no way to completely escape the effects of stigma unfortunately, but there are some ways a person can cope with it. The following are some ways to do that:
-Get the treatment you need. It can be frightening to do this, but it’s the only way to find relief from a mental disorder. Treatment will help diagnose what’s wrong and help you find ways to manage symptoms, so your life can be manageable.
-Learn to cope with shame and low self esteem. These are things that are caused by others’ opinions of your disorder, which originate from a lack of knowledge. Remembering that what others think is beyond your control can help you move past the feelings of shame or doubt that you’re experiencing. Counseling can really help if these feelings become especially overwhelming.
-Get support. This is very important because isolating yourself can be very easy when facing stigma. Talk to someone you trust, find a therapy group, or another support group that focuses on your specific issues.