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  • Let’s Break the Stigma Together….

    May is recognized as Mental Health Month, yet every day should be seen as an opportunity for mental health awareness, given its crucial role in our lives and society. This month, as we grow more informed about mental illness, it is hoped that the associated stigma will increasingly diminish. It is estimated that 26% of Americans aged 18 and older, or about one in four adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder each year.

    Stigma often arises from misunderstanding or fear, fueled by inaccurate or misleading media portrayals of mental illness. Studies on stigma indicate that despite acknowledging the medical or genetic basis of mental health disorders and the necessity for treatment, many still view those with mental illness negatively.

    Some important places where stigma resides includes:

    • Institutional stigma is more systemic, involving policies from governments and private organizations that, whether intentionally or not, restrict opportunities for people with mental illness. This can manifest as reduced funding for mental health research or fewer mental health services compared to other healthcare areas.
    • Public stigma is the negative or discriminatory attitudes others hold towards mental
    • Self-stigma is the negative attitudes, including internalized shame, that individuals with mental illness feel about their condition.

    An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year.

    Rates of other mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, were reported to be higher in females (23.4%) than in males (14.3%).

    Public, self, and institutional stereotypes and prejudices persist, painting people with mental illness as dangerous, incompetent, or at fault for their condition. These stereotypes are entrenched in laws and institutional practices, leading to discrimination; consequently, employers may hesitate to hire, and landlords may refuse to rent to those affected by mental health conditions.

    A recent national poll revealed that mental health stigma remains a significant issue in the workplace. Approximately half of the employees expressed concerns about discussing mental health issues at work. Over one-third worried about retaliation or termination if they sought mental health care.

    Addressing Stigmas:

    Studies indicate that familiarity or interaction with individuals who have mental illnesses is one of the most effective ways to diminish stigma. Personal testimonies and open dialogue can lead to positive changes. Understanding someone with a mental illness demystifies the condition, making it less intimidating and more tangible.

    A recent research review on combating stigma determined that initiatives to decrease stigma and discrimination are effective at both individual and societal levels. The most compelling evidence supported anti-stigma programs that involve people with firsthand mental health experiences and those that are sustained over time.

    Mental health organizations recommendations for individual actions to help diminish the stigma surrounding mental illness:

    • Engage in open conversations about mental health, including sharing experiences on social
    • Promote parity between physical and mental illness, making analogies to the treatment of diseases like cancer or diabetes.
    • Display empathy towards individuals with mental
    • Inform the media when they perpetuate stigma through language or portrayals of mental
    • Opt for empowerment over shame – combat stigma by embracing an empowered life, owning your narrative, and rejecting external definitions of self-worth.
    • Be candid about treatment – treat mental health care as you would any other medical
    • Pay attention to language, reminding others of its
    • Educate yourself and others – counteract misconceptions or negative remarks with facts and personal stories.

    Breaking stigmas start with you. Try saying statements such as:

    • “Thank you for confiding in “
    • “Is there any way I can assist you?”
    • “I’m sorry you’re experiencing It sounds incredibly difficult.”
    • “Remember, I’m here for you whenever you need “
    • “It’s hard to fathom the challenges you’re “
    • “It’s true, people can recover and”
    • “That’s really “
    • “Would it help if I gave you a ride to your appointment?”
    • “What’s your current state of mind?”
    • “My love for you will never change”

    Don’t say statements such as:

    • “Things could be “
    • “Deal with “
    • “Snap out of “
    • “Sometimes everyone feels this”
    • “This may be self-“
    • “This is a common “
    • “You need to get a “
    • “Consider thinking more positive “

    Mental health is a collective responsibility, and breaking the stigma begins with each individual. It’s crucial not to pass the responsibility onto others. Everyone has a role to play and the ability to contribute to change. As we discover different methods to effect change, let’s unite in dismantling the stigmas surrounding mental health.