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The Stigma of Mental Illness

The stigma of mental illness affects those who deal with mental illness every day. Keep reading for more information on this complex subject. 

The Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Those with mental illness can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives because of the way others perceive them. An issue with this stigma is that it can make those suffering from a mental illness feel even more isolated, making the symptoms of the mental illness even worse. 

How Does This Stigma Affect Those Who Suffer?

The stigma surrounding mental illness can affect those with mental illness in many ways, but some of the most common include:
  • Those with mental illness can have increased difficulty finding jobs.
  • They can have a hard time getting adequate medical care.
  • They can have a difficult time finding adequate or accomodating housing.
  • They may not feel included in mainstream society. 
The stigma surrounding mental illness makes it more difficult for sufferers to meet their basic needs. This means that there are higher rates of loneliness, illness, poverty, and homelessness among the mentally ill population.

Mental Illness in the Media

The media frequently perpetuates the stigma of mental illness by misrepresenting mentally ill individuals in a negative light. Those with mental illnesses are often portrayed as dangerous, incompetent, irrational, lazy, and undeserving. They often have a disheveled appearance, are overly childish and silly, constantly experience extreme symptoms, and can never recover. These mischaracterizations about mental illness are not only offensive but extremely harmful as well. Those who gain knowledge about mentally ill individuals only from TV shows or movies will likely be grossly misinformed and will also be more likely to perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental illness.  TV shows, movies, and even news outlets often correlate violent crimes with mental illness. However, recent studies show that the two are not related in fact. Those who suffer from mental illnesses are not only less likely to commit violent crimes but more likely to be victims of violent crimes. 

Mental Illness Stigma in the Workplace

In the United States, your employer is required to provide you with reasonable accommodation if you request it. Your mental illness does not need to be severe or permanent for you to request these accommodations. If you are being discriminated against for your mental health, you may have legal options. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission protects you from discrimination and allows you to challenge discrimination in the workplace if you are applying for a job, leaving a job, or are at work when the discrimination occurs.  If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, according to the EEOC website, “The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can help you decide what to do next, and conduct an investigation if you decide to file a charge of discrimination. Because you must file a charge within 180 days of the alleged violation in order to take further legal action (or 300 days if the employer is also covered by a state or local employment discrimination law), it is best to begin the process early. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for contacting the EEOC or filing a charge.” If it is safe, attempt to have a civilized conversation with their employer to discuss the offense. They may not have perceived that their behavior was discriminatory, and in that instance, you may have the opportunity to educate them and move forward. However, if they are unreceptive, it is time to take action. If your loved one is being discriminated against at work for their mental health, offer them your love and support, and advocate for them if they are unable to advocate for themselves. 

Breaking the Stigma

Breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness is a personal obligation. Here are nine ways we can work to break the stigma surrounding mental illness:
  1. Talk about mental health openly and honestly – If you have a mental illness, consider speaking out about your experience, whether in person, in order to break the stigma. 
  2. Educate yourself and those around you – Be knowledgeable about different mental illnesses, their symptoms, and how they can impact the lives of those who have them. 
  3. Be mindful of your language – Using derogatory terms commonly used to describe mentally ill people can be highly offensive. By learning about these terms and making the active choice not to use them, you are helping to break the stigma. 
  4. Encourage equality – Encourage equal opportunities for all, in school, in the workplace, and in public areas. 
  5. Be compassionate – Try to be understanding of those with mental illnesses and treat them with kindness and acceptance. When you are compassionate, others will be encouraged to exercise compassion as well. 
  6. Call out stigmatized media – When you see something that perpetuates the stigma against mental illness, don’t accept it. Let the appropriate parties know that it is not ok. 
  7. Don’t hold on to self-stigma – Don’t hold the stigma against mental illness against yourself. Holding onto harmful feelings toward yourself will make it harder to be compassionate toward others with mental illness. 

Mental Illness and Addiction

Mental illness and drug use can go hand in hand. If you or a loved one is experiencing a dual-diagnoses of mental illness and addiction, don’t wait; seek treatment. The stigma surrounding mental illness can exacerbate mental illness, which can, in turn, exacerbate addictive behavior. By seeking treatment, you can begin the process of breaking the cycle before it is too late. 

Contact Ardu Recovery Center 

If you or a loved one have a mental illness and have suffered because of the stigma of mental illness, just know, you are not alone. Reach out to the experts at Ardu Recovery Center. We are committed to helping you get better mentally and physically, and we will be there with you every step of the way. Our modern methods are custom-tailored to suit your unique situation, making success more likely. If you are in the Provo, Utah area, contact us today to learn more about what Ardu can do for you.