In the past, if someone told you, you were mentally ill, you were immediately labeled as “crazy,” and it left you with a stigma that was forever attached. Nowadays, mental illness is viewed much differently, and more people are coming out and admitting their illness and getting help. Let’s break down the stigma of mental illness once and for all. Stay tuned to learn how.
Early History of Mental Illness
In ancient times, people who had a mental illness were categorized as a personal or religious issue. In the U.S., mental illness was considered punishment or a curse for people who weren’t “normal.” This persisted well into the 19th and 20th centuries, where people were often institutionalized for being “mental.” They were ostracized, neglected, and made to feel shame for their condition.
Learn more about how the mentally ill were treated and how it’s finally being recognized for what it is: chemical deficiencies in the brain.
Mental Health Institutions
Before we go headfirst into breaking down the stigma of mental illness, let’s talk first about mental institutions and why they were used so heavily. Back in the early days of the U.S., doctors didn’t know how to care for the mentally ill and so they lived poorly or on the streets. Religious leaders thought they needed more religion and society labeled them as “crazy,” needing to be put away.
After decades of people living in dangerous and unhealthy environments, activist Dorthea Dix lobbied the U.S. government about the living conditions and petitioned for state psychiatric hospitals. The U.S. funded the building of 32 state psychiatric hospitals, an in-patient model that allowed staff to care for the mentally ill. Families and communities thought it was the best way to protect everyone involved.
They were put in mental hospitals to be cared for by staff that could monitor their behavior and keep them medicated. The problem is that the hospitals were often underfunded and understaffed, and people were living in poor conditions with human rights violations reported. It wasn’t until the 1950s when a push to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill came into play. Once the movement spread, many state psychiatric hospitals closed.
By 1980, there were 130,000 patients, down from over 550,000 patients in 1953. By 2000, state psychiatric beds dropped to 22 per 100,000 people, down from 339 in 1955, a move towards the de-stigmatization of mental illness.
Breaking the Stigma
Once health professionals realized mental illness had many factors involved that included environmental, traumatic, genetics, and more, understanding and acceptance followed. Mental health awareness has taken huge steps recently, and society is finally accepting that mental illness is a disease of the brain and one that can and should be treated—with kindness, compassion, patience, and acceptance.
There are many ways in which people can break the stigma of thinking they are crazy if they have anxiety, OCD, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. These ways include:
- Getting treatment
- Joining a support group
- Not isolating yourself
- Speaking out against the stigma
- Getting help at school
- Seeking counseling
- Not labeling yourself as “mentally ill”
- Being compassionate with yourself and others
- Choosing empowerment over shame
Society, in general, can accept those with mental illness and have compassion towards them. They can befriend them and listen to their struggles with the disease. Employers can accept that an employee might have PTSD from being in the military and allow for specialized therapeutic modalities, such as an emotional support animal. Parents can recognize the signs and seek help early. Government officials can ensure people get help if they don’t have insurance.
These are just the basics, and more can and should be done.
Ardu Recovery Center is Here for You
If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental illness and in need of therapy, especially if coupled with substance abuse, please contact us. We are here and waiting to offer treatment and support with a customized program that provides the best tools in helping you recover from mental illness. Call us now.