World Mental Health Day: Eliminating stigma is imperative for mental health treatment

Stigma has its own way of worsening mental health. It tends to make people feel withdrawn and isolated. Most of the mentally ill people take time to respond to treatment, but stigma can aggravate the condition of those afflicted with psychological disorders.

Acceptance of the existence of mental illness becomes all the more difficult following experiences of perceived stigma. This, in turn, hampers people to seek timely help. The preconceived notion about mentally ill people being violent and unpredictable increases the level of unknown fear against them.

The “World Mental Health Day” observed by the World Health Organization (WHO) on October 10 every year, is aimed at educating people about issues involving mental health, apart from recommending public support in favor of mental health. While there is a need to keep people informed about the pervasiveness of mental illnesses and the various treatment options available, there is an ardent necessity to make people understand that mental illness is like any other biological condition that can be treated with proper medical and family support.

Reiterating on the same, Dr. Matthew State, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and one of the leaders of the University of California, San Francisco Weill Institute for Neurosciences said, “Serious mental illnesses fundamentally are no different from cancer or heart disease. The developing brain is particularly complex and we need a much better understanding of what’s causing those physiological disruptions and how to correct them.”

Stigma prevents patients of mental illness to share their problems

The social stigma attached to mental illness is a big problem in the United States. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights that nearly 43.8 million people had some form of mental illness in 2013. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 20 percent people aged between 13 and 18 years suffered from some debilitating mental illness at some point in their lives.

People suffering from mental illnesses stop discussing their problems or refuse to take help after becoming a victim of stigma surrounding their disorders. Perceived stigma results in mentally ill people stigmatizing themselves, resulting in as many people refraining from participating in the full course of treatment or restraining themselves from seeking treatment altogether.

It soon turns into a vicious cycle, with the society stigmatizing and patients internalizing the impact of social disgrace and then avoiding treatment. This leads to a deterioration in their mental health condition which when manifested brings in more unwanted attention and stigma.

Isolating such people or maintaining distance from them due to their emotional condition is only a violation of their civil rights. This can further prevent the disorder from being recognized and treated. At times, acts of violence are linked with mental illness which only strengthens people’s tendency of isolating the sufferers.

Awareness is key to ending stigma

Though more Americans are now getting educated about the existence of mental health conditions and their potential symptoms, more steps need to be taken in this direction. The prevalence of mental health conditions is a big burden for the U.S. today and lack of adequate medical facilities has only exacerbated the situation, leaving people either untreated or partially treated.

There is an urgent need to tackle any act that resembles or exhibits stigma. Policies need to be changed to ensure that mentally ill people are able to receive the highest level of therapeutic interventions.

If you or your loved one is battling some form of mental disorder, get connected to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to learn about the best mental health programs in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with one of our mental health experts for information on mental health treatment rehabs in your vicinity.