Mental health stigma can manifest in different ways, including prejudice, discrimination, fear, distrust, and stereotyping of those with mental illness. The cause of stigma can be rooted in cultural and religious misperceptions and a lack of education about the disease.
Mental health stigma also is a significant factor preventing individuals from seeking help because others may view mental illness and getting care as a personal weakness. According to the World Health Organization, nearly two-thirds of individuals with a mental health disorder do not seek treatment.
“The most important thing we can do to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness is talk openly about mental health,” said Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s psychiatrist Chad Lennon, MD. “Inserting the topic into dinnertime conversations with your family or conversations with your friends will help spark a dialogue.”
Mental illness is a disease of the brain and it is treatable. Like diseases of the body such as cancer or diabetes, overcoming mental illness and living a healthy life depends on early detection and proper treatment. “Never feel ashamed of getting help for yourself,” said Dr. Lennon.
Individuals with mental illness are more likely talk about their experience if they have a supportive environment. Dr. Lennon offers the following tips to help you support a loved one and eliminate the shame and fear associated with mental illness:
- Check in with your friends and loved one’s regularly. Simply asking them how they are feeling will help them be more comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions.
- Connect your loved one to mental health resources, if needed.
- Play close attention to signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors and take them seriously.
- Learn what to do if your loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis.