When was the last time you went to therapy?
When was the last time you told someone you were going to therapy?
If you’re like most Americans, it’s probably been a while. Only about a quarter of Americans have received professional counseling at some point in their lives, and most of them don’t like to talk about it. They have lots of reasons to do so. According to Patrick W. Corrigan, PsyD, mental health stigma “is in the same category as racism and sexism” largely because of the way that “it permeates all of society and affects people at all levels.” While stigma can be worse for some mental health problems than others, it is mainstream, and something that many people with mental illness either fear having to deal with, or have to deal with, in their everyday lives.
This can have some serious repercussions.
Mental health stigma is a big issue, and not one we can tackle fully in one newsletter edition. For today, we’re just going to go over the basics what mental health stigma is and how you can help decrease it.
Let’s get started.
What is mental health stigma?
Mayo Clinic defines stigma as “when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage,” and it is a common problem confronting people who deal with mental health problems.
From refusing to seek help, to fewer work opportunities, to social isolation, mental health stigma can have an impact on nearly every facet of a person’s life, ranging from frustrating to life-threatening.
So, what can we do about it?
We’re glad you asked.
Here are a few things you can do to help decrease mental health stigma:
- Talk openly about your own mental health. If you can, be open about your own mental health and treatment with the people around you. From sharing your journey with friends, to simply saying “I’m going to therapy” instead of “I have a prior commitment,” talking openly about your mental health can help normalize the conversation and give others a chance to open up about their own struggles.
- Educate yourself on mental health. We often fear what we don’t know, and the same can be said for stigma. Learn about mental health by reading from reliable sources, such as peer-reviewed journals or Mayo Clinic, and consider talking to your doctor or mental health professional next time you have an appointment about common mental health problems and treatment options. The more you know, the less likely you are to treat others differently because of stigma.
- Choose your words carefully. Phrases like “just try to be happy” or “you have no reason to be anxious” may be meant as helpful, but they can feel suffocating to people who are already struggling with mental health problems. When you talk about mental health, being intentional about the words you use is important.
These may seem like small steps, but in the grand scheme of things, they can make a big difference. Thank you for being a part of the solution!
Whether you’re struggling personally or just want to know more, these helpful resources can provide helpful information and support.
- Make it Ok is all about reducing the stigma. They have a great resources page, as well as tips on how to talk about mental illness and what to say when someone opens up to you.
- MentalHealth.gov is a great site for information about a variety of mental health conditions and how to get treatment.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a good phone number to know, for yourself and for anyone around you who may be struggling.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a helpline for everything from providing support to helping people find treatment options in their area.
- Online treatment options, like Talkspace or BetterHelp, are great for people who otherwise may not be able to access treatment.
For some ways to take care of your own mental health, check out this blog post.