I’m sure we have all known someone who suffers from some sort of mental illness all along the spectrum, from mild anxiety to full on schizophrenia. And often we may have some preconceived and very inaccurate views of what it means to have a mental illness. Because of these biases against people who are wired differently than perhaps you and I are, there is a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding and discrimination leveled against these members of society causing them to be stigmatized by their condition.
What are the implications?
- there may be an unwillingness to seek treatment that would help stabilize the condition
- friends and family may be afraid of the person and avoid contact
- housing and employment may be difficult to secure
- there may be bullying and harassment
- there may be a lack of treatment options or health insurance coverage for treatment
- there may be a belief that it is a lifelong, very limiting condition
What are the solutions?
- the patient should not allow themselves to become isolated but rather seek support from those they trust
- seek treatment even though it may be uncomfortable because there may be a solution to reduce or even eliminate symptoms of the illness
- don’t be your own worst enemy by stigmatizing yourself, but rather seek information, professional help and a support program with people who understand the condition
- don’t identify with the illness by calling yourself the illness, but rather refer to it as a condition you have, as in “I have schizophrenia”, not “I am schizophrenic”.
- become an advocate for yourself and others who have a mental illness by speaking out to educate others and against bullying and stigmatizing those who can’t speak for themselves
The shame attached to the conditions we deem to be “mental illness” is the reason so many suffer in silence and don’t seek help. Many of our homeless population suffer with mental illness. Drug addiction often stems from the attempt to self-medicate to stop the racing thoughts, fear, paranoia and other symptoms people experience.