As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental illness is among the most common health conditions in the United States. Mental health disorders are broad and can range from anxiety disorders to perceived body image issues and everything in between. They can affect anyone, and the cause of each mental ailment often has something to do with heredity, environment, or both.
Given the number of people experiencing a decline in mental health these days, it’s unfortunate how the level of stigma seems to be rising as well. This stigma is hindering people from living their lives properly and, worse, discouraging them from seeking professional help.
Stigma And Discrimination Surrounding Mental Disorders
Mental health stigma has been around for decades. It’s a widespread dilemma that affects many individuals suffering from a mental ailment. It refers to societal shame, generalized and false beliefs, and unfavorable viewpoints against people living with a disorder.
This pressing societal issue stems from fear, politics, inaccurate perceptions, misleading media portrayals, and misunderstanding among groups of people with psychological problems. For instance, cultural notions surrounding mental disorders came about to protect civilians from the perceived threats and actions of people with a mental illness.
At that time, those without mental health problems didn’t understand why mentally ill individuals acted the way they did and feared that the latter might inflict pain and put others in danger. Because of this, civilians discriminated, ignored, and downgraded people with mental disorders.
Today, despite the surging number of studies surrounding the causes of such illnesses, disapproval and unfair judgment continue to be the general default response. However, those beliefs are no longer supposedly keeping anyone out of harm’s way. Instead, they’re stopping individuals with mental sickness from seeking opportunities, living peacefully with others, and overcoming their circumstances.
The Consequences Of Stigma
Mental health stigma has been deeply established into society that it can be challenging to overcome it. It’s experienced by mentally ill people through subtle and grand gestures alike such as direct negative remarks, dismissive responses, and physical bullying.
Apart from those, stigma can affect the way individuals with mental disorders go about their daily lives. For instance, one’s mental condition is thought to either be an advantage or a disadvantage in the workplace.
When people realize that you have a disorder, they may start treating you differently as though your condition impairs your talents and capabilities. You might be given limited opportunities and resources to refine your skills and have a more comfortable life. However, depending on the severity of the illness, a lot of people are able to work efficiently while managing their mental condition.
Moreover, because stigma has been heavily ingrained in society, it may be difficult for mentally sick people to maintain relationships, socialize with others, get married, and have a family. Due to the negative connotations it creates, stigma puts mentally ill people in a bad light. It leads them to experience insecurities, doubts, and other issues with their self-esteem.
Consequently, they end up not asking for help, declining therapy, and avoiding other people. All of those may make it hard for them to recover, which might worsen the problem, result in suicidal ideation, and trap people in this negative cycle.
Mental Disorders And Their Treatments
Mental disorders are complex. Apart from their classified symptoms, they’re determined by their prevalence, duration, and intensity. The situation can become even more complicated if you have a preexisting mental or physical condition. Hence, treatment programs and range of support vary for each person.
For example, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and postpartum depression may occur due to external circumstances that trigger either condition. And although they’re common mental disorders (prevalence), they can be experienced by a patient longer than expected (duration).
Nonetheless, despite such illnesses being more common or less intense than others, it’s important to visit the nearest mental health clinic to seek professional intervention before the symptoms get worse.
For brief mental conditions, treatment and maintenance can be done by attending therapy, following a certain diet, performing guided, relaxing activities, and, if necessary, taking medications. When you cooperate with your therapist and complete the treatment program, your chances of recovery may increase.
However, there are persistent and/or recurring mental diseases that require long-term care and support from various groups of people and professionals. This is meant to help manage the condition itself, alleviate pain, and assist the person in progressively overcoming it.
Ways To Reach For Mental Health Support
Amid the existence of mental health stigma, there are now more ways and resources for individuals to find the support they need while living with a mental ailment. Various types of mental health assistance can come from different groups of people. Read on to find out how to seek adequate mental health support.
1. Participate In Therapy
Therapy is an important part of one’s pursuit toward recovery. Utilizing this particular service expands your knowledge about your symptoms and helps you gain valuable insights. Likewise, attending therapy helps you realize that even though you’re unwell now, you can eventually get better.
Your therapist—be it a counselor, psychologist, or mental health provider—is competent enough to understand deep-rooted emotions and difficult, personal subjects. By reaching out to them, you can release all those draining matters, reflect on them, and potentially create meaning out of your experiences.
Your therapist will guide you throughout the process and help you adjust your pacing, especially if it seems too much for you to handle. They’ll teach you coping strategies and techniques to process your emotions, drive out negative thoughts, and develop healthy habits, among others. All these practical benefits will allow you to manage your condition as you slowly approach recovery.
Moreover, by embracing therapy, you’re making a deliberate choice to take care of your mental health. You’re empowering yourself to take control of your situation, not the other way around. As you continue to attend your appointments, the positive gains you receive can continue to grow and affect other areas of your life, too.
While there’s stigma surrounding therapy and counseling, this shouldn’t stop you from reaching out to your provider. When you take the time to attend therapy and others see your progress, you can help debunk the myths around and misconceptions about this kind of treatment.
With your experiences in therapy, you can shed light on false beliefs and do your part in dismantling the barriers between mental health conditions and seeking professional support.
Furthermore, not only people with moderate to severe conditions go to therapy; people experiencing various life problems can do so as well. For instance, families are encouraged to engage in group therapy to iron out conflicts, strengthen their ties, and learn to communicate with another.
If you’re a young working adult, it’s natural to feel discouraged and lost at one point in your life. However, if it seems like it’s already affecting your motivation and thinking pattern and has brought you major stress, you can freely explore what therapy can do for you.
Additionally, if you’re not yet ready to tell anyone that you’re talking to a therapist, you’re allowed to keep this matter to yourself. It’s also your therapist’s ethical duty to preserve personal data and maintain confidentiality, unless they need to protect your or others’ welfare. As long as you’re taking the initial step and attending your sessions, you’re making a difference in your mental health and taking part in breaking the stigma.
2. Join A Community
Finding a sense of community can contribute toward maintaining mental health. This is especially true if you have a mental illness with prevailing symptoms of isolation and loneliness.
Community can be defined and found in several ways. You can join a community in your workplace, neighborhood, university, and other frequented places. It’s not about conforming to the standards of a group.
Instead, it’s about surrounding yourself with people who uplift you, empower you, and make you feel valued. When you’re able to get positive feelings from them, you can feel supported as you deal with your mental condition.
Moreover, the purpose of joining a community is not to forget your problems or dismiss therapy. It’s for the sake of spending time in a place other than your home, improving your mood, and being more physically active, which is a must since there’s a close link between physical and mental health.
Apart from those, there are two more benefits of joining a community:
When you’re struggling with a mental disorder, it’s easy to isolate yourself and refrain from talking to people. It can be tempting to get trapped inside your head and believe that no one wants you around.
However, by encouraging yourself to join a community, you can connect with others and feel less alone in your journey. A crucial element of community is its power to make you recognize that you belong and are accepted.
To find a community, you can look into your passions, hobbies, and interests. There might be school clubs or workplace organizations you can be a part of. When you’re in the presence of like-minded people, you can embrace and take delight in your own set of qualities. Also, by bonding with them and relating to their stories, you can gain insight into your true self and contemplate about your problems.
According to research done by the Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC), making time for group recreational activities, creative pursuits, and similar ventures can help you build resilience against life stressors. Those activities will help you learn to maximize the resources around you to withstand challenges that can affect your well-being.
In a community, you’ll take on roles that allow you to be accountable. For instance, you can help manage teams in your organization. This can give you a sense of responsibility as someone relies on you to lead improvements, suggest alternatives, and strengthen your team’s communication.
As a result, this gives you something to look forward to every day. It brings you confidence that you can tackle problems with your team’s support. It also gives you hope that you can better other people’s lives.
With that said, try to volunteer in your community and let yourself get involved in projects. By exploring and taking part in such events, you’ll get to know others’ struggles, meet new people, and impart your skills and knowledge while making a difference. You can create an identity as someone who’s using their resources to help those in need. In the course of volunteering, you get to be rewarded by the positivity that can help boost your mental health.
3. Select A Digital Mental Health Platform
Digital mental health is a wide concept that involves leveraging technological advancements and upgrades to receive support and connect with peers and health providers. All of those are aimed toward breaking the societal stigma and fostering better mental health. Due to this, seeking mental support is no longer bound by physical barriers.
With all the accessible platforms out there, you’ll surely be able to find one that matches your needs and preferences. To give you a better idea regarding them, the following are the two most common digital mental health care platforms:
• Self-Help Spaces
Today, you have the option to engage with your peers through various online channels. Typically, these platforms are created by mental health allies, professionals, and third-party sectors to fill in gaps and provide support to people struggling with a mental condition. The goal of these self-help sources is to build an online community allowing you to connect with people experiencing the same personal struggles and conditions.
Through these digital channels, you’re no longer limited to your neighboring communities; you can also give and receive support on a global level. You’ll be able to meet people from all parts of the world, talk about your experiences, impart practical insights, and support others in overcoming their mental health hurdles.
This option is especially beneficial to people who have physical disabilities and mild mental conditions at the same time. Also, you can temporarily benefit from these digital channels if your insurance doesn’t cover therapy or if you’re just not ready to talk with a counselor.
Nonetheless, take note that online platforms may not be suitable for people with severe mental conditions. For such cases, it’s recommended to directly seek professional help.
If you’re already seeing a therapist, it would be best to ask their opinion regarding the digital channels available to you. They may even help you find credible self-help options you can safely go for.
E-therapy or teletherapy is beneficial for people living in areas far from any mental health clinic. With the convenience provided by these online programs, you can continue to be proactive with your treatment, mental health needs, and progress.
For instance, you can attend counseling sessions in the privacy of your own home. You can also mark an appointment based on your personal schedule. These can encourage you to complete the entire therapy and treatment program.
The battle against mental health stigma may be a long and demanding one. However, you don’t need to do it alone. By attending therapy and actively participating in the right groups, you can do your part in eliminating misconceptions about mental disorders. Doing so also helps strengthen your support system as you overcome your own struggles. In a way, it allows you lift the burden of others who are experiencing the daily challenges brought by societal stigma as well.