Stigma is negatively judging someone based on a particular attribute, such as having a mental health condition like depression or bipolar disorder. People buy into various stereotypes about these illnesses and let that determine their beliefs. What they rarely realize is that stigma has a tremendously harmful impact on people with these conditions. Here’s a closer look at what stigma looks like, its devastating effects and how to cope with stigma.
What Stigma Looks Like
Stigma can be overt or subtle. An overt example is making negative comments about people with mental illness or discriminating against them. A subtle sign is believing and perpetuating the many destructive myths about mental illness, such as the idea that people with mental illness are violent or dangerous.
Side Effects of Stigma
Stigma around mental health conditions can make people feel ashamed or discourage them from speaking up and getting help.
Plus, while about 22 percent of American adults suffer from a mental health condition such as depression in any given year, almost half don’t seek treatment, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Many other factors contribute to a refusal to seek help, but stigma remains one of the most glaring and important reasons.
Stigma has other serious side effects. It can lead family and friends to reject a loved one, which is devastating, because social support is key to recovery. The person may encounter discrimination or physical harassment, which can add extra stress. Stigma even results in inadequate insurance coverage for mental illness.
How to Cope with Stigma
• Get educated. Whether you’re struggling emotionally or you know someone who is, get educated about mental health conditions. And share what you’ve learned with friends. Knowledge is one of the best ways to combat stigma. Read more...