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What If We Were To De-Stigmatize Mental Illness?

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. 

Why can't we treat mental illness the same way we treat other chronic conditions? When we develop an autoimmune disorder or diabetes or heart disease, are we stigmatized and bullied for it? Not generally, although there may be exceptions. But these are "socially acceptable" conditions for which most people readily seek solutions. We need to make mental health as important and treatable as our physical health. I think that this approach would go a long way in helping to resolve so many of our social issues. 

We need to do a better job teaching our children to respect everyone, regardless of their sameness or difference. We need to do a better job in providing services for those who are in need of support and insurance companies must recognize that mental health issues are not necessarily resolved in five visits to a therapist, or whatever unreasonably small number they deem appropriate.

There are so many members of society who have so much to offer but are held back by a condition that, if we just offered a helping hand, could be well managed. Why don't we just try that for a change?

As a health coach, I work with women who are facing serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes or who have been diagnosed as having a precursor to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. I help them make food and lifestyle changes so they can get healthy, live longer and enjoy a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.

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7 Comments

  1. narissa on October 11, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    Hi, Karen. This makes me sad as I see an increased number of individuals with mental illness here in our country, abandoned and ignored. I believe that some of them started just fine but with life's challenges, the condition evolved and persisted. Some of them, according to others, are born with the condition.

    - Bing of Bing Writes Content

    The solutions you enumerated are doable but I think, they cannot do it alone. There has to be someone who will guide them and tell them these things.

    I always tell others this question - What if you are the one with that condition, wouldn't you want help? This self-check question often results to aggressive answers and denial but I believe telling them this will make them think before discriminating people with mental illness.

  2. Karen on October 12, 2019 at 12:13 am

    You are so right Bing. Thank you for commenting. This is an awful problem in our country and not enough is being done to help care for people who are afflicted. So much of the issue is the shame attached to it for the person who has it and the family members who feel shame. It should not be something you need to be ashamed of. It's an illness just like any other.

  3. Bing on October 12, 2019 at 6:05 am

    I couldn't agree more. The stigma makes each situation worse.

  4. Unknown on October 12, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Depression and anxiety seems to be an epidemic these days. I just had a conversation with a young man today that was refreshing. He said "everyone needs counseling", so maybe the next generation won't have the stigma? Not sure. But you are so right Karen, we all need to look out for one another, and not be afraid to talk about what hurts.

  5. Karen on October 12, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    I agree and I think it's due to many factors. Everyone could do better with a little mental health support. I would love to see treatment more normalized so people don't have to be afraid to seek help.

  6. Elisa Heisman on October 13, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Thanks for writing about this! It's important to know where the gaps are before we can fill them. I hope a lot of people read this and take action.

  7. Karen on October 13, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    I hope people start allowing mental illness to be out in the open where it can be taken care of properly. Thanks for your comment Elisa.

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