It’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s Cure the Stigma
Published: May 12, 2018
How common are mental illnesses?
Look at it this way — one in five Americans experience some form of mental illness in a given year. That includes anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorders.
That’s the same number of people who live with allergies.
Yet people with mental illnesses often face stigma. Too often, when people encounter someone who lives with mental illness, they react negatively, with fear, exclusion, avoidance and even discrimination.
Can you imagine treating people with allergies the same way?
The Consequences of Mental Illness Stigma
An article published by the journal World Psychiatry demonstrates the impact that stigma can have on people who live with mental illness. Often, the researchers state, people can often treat individuals one of three stigmatizing ways. They may fear persons with mental illnesses and believe they should be kept apart from society. They may assume these people lack basic life skills, and so they should be institutionalized. They may even treat people with mental illness like children who need constant care.
In addition, because mental illnesses interfere with the thought processes of the people they affect, there is often a tendency for individuals to self-stigmatize. Low self-esteem may lead a person to believe they don’t deserve help, and the persistence of symptoms may cause someone to think they are too “broken” to recover from a behavioral health disorder.
These stigmatizing behaviors have real-life consequences. People who worry they will not be accepted may self-medicate with alcohol or illicit drugs. As a result, over 10 million people have co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.
Because they are often denied access to housing, people with mental illnesses make up over 25% of the homeless population — and nearly 25% of the prison population.
Most crucially, 90% of people who die by suicide each year have some underlying mental illness. Suicide, meanwhile, is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
Fight the Stigma of Mental Illness
When it comes to reducing the stigma of mental illness and behavioral health disorders, everyone has a role to play. If someone you love — or even just like — comes to you to discuss their issues, the best thing you can be is accepting. He or she is the same person you knew before, only now they’re coming to grips with the root cause of a very real problem.
We can also advocate for better mental health care at the local, state and national levels. Adequate care can reduce the economic burden on every community, and it will benefit everyone touched by these illnesses. Think of it this way: Access to better behavioral health care should be as much a right as treatments for allergies are.
Most importantly, for people who bravely face every day coping with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or a schizoaffective disorder — know that you are not alone. One out of every five people is facing the same struggle. They are your coworkers, your friends and your neighbors, and real help is available.
Unison Health Offers a Continuum of Care for Better Behavioral Health
Perhaps the best way we can fight the stigma is to encourage the people we care about to seek out the treatment they need. Unison Health offers a range of treatment options, from individual counseling to partial hospitalization to the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety, located in Perrysburg. In addition, the licensed professionals at Unison Health can treat co-occurring substance abuse disorders as well as provide excellent primary care.
Get more information about our behavioral health care services, or call Unison Health at 419-214-HOPE today.