When you have an infection, you call the doctor. When you have a toothache, you call the dentist. But why when you notice a change in your emotional wellbeing don’t you call a counselor? The mental health stigma (or the view of individuals who seek mental health counselling in a negative way) can have a strong enough effect to stop someone from picking up the phone for help. The idea that an individual is perceived in a negative manner just for the use of mental health services sometimes prevents an individual from seeking care.
In the same ways that the doctor helps cure your infection, or the dentist helps fill your cavity, a counselor or therapist can help guide you through the emotional challenge you may be experiencing. However, fear surrounding the thought of being judged or criticized holds strong enough in some individuals that they will not seek out care.
1 in 5 Americans live with a mental disorder such as depression, bipolar, or anxiety disorder according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and two-thirds of those diagnosed do not seek treatment. Fears of disclosure or discrimination are some examples of why one would not receive care. Helping to stop mental health stigma opens the doors to mental health treatment and care for those who truly need the support.
Tips for Stopping Mental Health Stigma:
1. Educate those around you about mental health.
Example: With MS, the rate of depression is three times higher than the general population.
2. Use positive language surrounding mental health illnesses
Example: Use phrases such as “a person with depression”; correct people who use inappropriate terms to describe a person.
3. Speak up if you feel you have been discriminated against based on a mental health condition!
Example: People with mental illnesses can experience discrimination in the workplace, education, housing, and healthcare.
Please share your tips or suggestions on ways to stop mental health stigma. By sharing the voices of those in need, we move closer to a world where those who need help no longer fear reaching out.