A World Health Organization (WHO) report estimates that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Anxiety, drug use disorders, alcohol use disorders, and schizophrenia are also significant issues that affect innumerable people across the globe. Despite the large number of mental health disorders, these conditions have had a stigma attached to them. Has that stigma changed in recent times?
Defining Mental Health Stigmas
Writing for Psychology Today, one expert points out that there are two types of stigmas against mental health disorders, known as social stigma and self-stigma. Social stigma may take place within a person’s circle of friends, within the family, or at the workplace. This stigma comes from other people who discriminate against individuals with mental health disorders.
Self-stigma originates within the people that have the disorder. These people may feel that they are victims of discrimination, and they may subsequently act like victims and encourage others to treat them differently. Qualified counselors may be able to help people with mental disorders to cope with both types of stigmas.
A Look at the History of Mental Health Stigmas
For centuries, mental health disorders have received a negative perception, as Psychology Today explains. At one time, this may have been because sufferers of mental disorders were thought to be demon-possessed or to be suffering from some other supernatural affliction.
Despite the leaps in understanding of mental illness, stigma still thrives in the 21st century. The American Psychological Association (APA) tells the story of one woman who attended law school. She refused therapy for her depression because she feared that she would have to let the bar association see her medical history and that she might not be admitted to practice.
As the APA explains, a survey reveals that as recently as 2000, more than two-thirds of people did not want someone with a mental illness to marry into their family. About 58 percent of people did not want someone with a mental illness in their workplace.
Changing Views Toward Mental Health
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A recent survey published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that about 90 percent of Americans believe that mental and physical health are equally important, yet they don’t receive equal treatment. The survey pointed out that about one-third of adults have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, but up to half of adults have thought that they may have such a condition.
The survey further indicates that while mental health is gaining more attention as a vital aspect of overall wellness, access to mental health care is a challenge for many individuals, either because the care is too expensive or people do not know where to find treatment. Some may hesitate to reach out for treatment because of lingering stigma.
Mental health stigmas are still an issue in today’s society, but continuing awareness campaigns, along with more widespread access to appropriate treatment, can continue to battle the harmful negative attitudes that many people hold toward mental health disorders.