Good medical treatment can transform people’s lives. But, when discussing mental health therapies, there is still a lingering stigma or feeling of shame that surrounds the illness. Some people may actually feel ashamed of their condition and choose not to seek treatment. An attitude that is not beneficial or productive for achieving good mental health.
A Barrier to Treatment:
A stigma, according to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), is a feeling of shame or judgment that is projected at a particular person. This mental health stigma was first brought to attention on the national level back in 1999 by former US Surgeon General David Satcher. The existence of this mental health stigma was actually seen as a serious barrier to treatment. For example, a person struggling with persistent feelings of depression might not seek treatment because they consider their illness to be a moral failing.
Due to the reluctance of some people to discuss mental health conditions, the total number of individuals who do not have access to proper treatment is a challenge to measure. This means the people may not even share their mental health concerns with friends and loved ones.
When people refuse to share their symptoms and concerns, researchers have a difficult time trying to track the number of people across the nation who have behavioral health concerns. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that about 16.1 million adults in the United States are considered to have major depressive disorder. When one looks beyond occurrences of depression, the mental illness numbers are even greater.
One study from 2014 reported that out of the 60 million people suffering from a mental illness, about 40 percent of this population chooses to not seek treatment. Within this population, the number of older Americans who choose to not seek treatment is likely even higher.
What is particularly tragic about this data is that many of these mental illnesses have effective evidence-based treatments. Yet, it is the prejudice and discrimination of mental illness itself that makes the situation even more difficult. People may internalize feelings of anxiety, shame and failure. They may hide their feelings and symptoms. Actions that only make the stigma even more powerful. In the long-run, these misunderstandings about behavioral health therapy are dangerous.
The first step is to educate people about the existence of mental health conditions and the need for treatments. This alone is a positive first step. Some people are not aware that mental health conditions are a leading cause of disability in the United States. For example, suicide is the second leading cause of death for the ages of 15-24. Across the entire U.S. population, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death.
In recent years, many famous and high-profile individuals have spoken out about the need for professional mental illness treatments. When doing this, they have shared their own struggles with depression, PTSD and other related illnesses. They have helped to create more awareness and acceptance of mental health conditions. These acts give hope and inspiration to the millions of people who are quietly struggling with their own mental illness concerns.
Educating people about the reality of mental illness provides valuable information to people so they can make better-informed decisions about possible treatments. When individuals have a better understanding of mental illness symptoms and treatments, they are not as likely to adhere to lingering mental health stigmas. Up-to-date information about behavioral health conditions and therapies can reduce the impact of negative stereotypes.
Healthcare professionals from a variety of medical specialties have called for an end to this stigma. One approach is to use the power of anonymity. HIPAA compliance, as well as other privacy regulations, require healthcare providers to use confidentiality for any type of medical care.
Research shows that anonymous screenings can encourage people to receive mental health treatments. Activities like these can help to break down the barriers surrounding mental health therapy.
Individuals who feel like they are impacted by a mental health stigma should learn how to neutralize these negative feelings. Experiencing mental health conditions are difficult enough for people. It is not helpful to simultaneously struggle with feelings of shame, doubt and self-blame. To overcome stigma, individuals need to not believe in these harmful feelings. This is one of the first steps for overcoming this stigma and becoming healthier. In other words, the first step in fighting stigma is not to have one for yourself.
People should reach out to a properly-trained mental health professional. In this way, individuals struggling with mental illness can receive much-needed support. People should not be afraid to discuss their mental health concerns with a healthcare professional. Yet, the growth of open and honest mental health discussions will eliminate the stigma.
By reading material from organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness provides people the opportunity to better educate themselves. Proper information allows people to better understand their condition and reduce the social stigma that surrounds this topic.
About Emerald Psychiatry:
For additional information on overcoming the stigma that sometimes surrounds mental health conditions, contact the staff at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center. Their psychiatry practice provides experienced behavioral and mental health treatments in a therapeutic setting. They understand that they are here to serve the needs and concerns of their patients.
By forming a trusting partnership with their patients, Emerald Psychiatry generates a comprehensive treatment plan that is customized to their patient’s mental health needs and requirements. Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center is proud to provide behavioral and mental health services throughout central Ohio. For more information about treatments and services, contact them.
Contributor: ABCS RCM