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Silence the Shame of Stigma

girl with her eyes downcast

The shame of stigma, unfortunately, still lurks in modern society. This only serves to make issues such as mental well-being much harder for the most vulnerable. But we can all help remove outdated ways of thinking by working with patients and educating those around us.

What Is Stigma?

In the United States alone, 1 out of 20 adults has mental health issues each year. Yet despite mental health issues becoming more common, there is still a stigma around some, if not all. Because of this, since 2004, Silence the Shame Day has been held each year on May 5 to raise awareness around mental health stigmas, provide guidance to those experiencing problems and assist the people around them. The goal is to rid the world of mental health stigma for good.

A stigma is often associated with a shameful act, such as going to prison for a crime. But when it comes to mental health, the impact and sentiment are far wider reaching. You will often hear people speak of others with mental health conditions like it's something to be ashamed of. As such, society has developed discriminatory attitudes towards mental health issues, such as:

This list is the tip of the iceberg, but you see the point. Many of these mental health issues experienced by patients are genetic or inflicted upon them by an external force event. In short, it's nobody's fault. And as a wider consequence of outdated attitudes, it also isn't uncommon for a mental health patient's family and friends to suffer by association. Often as is the case for those who experience behavioral issues. But we should embrace and help rather than shunt.

The Negative Impact of a Stigma on Mental Health

Not all mental health issues are obvious, just as not all disabilities are physical. Yet some of the signs of mental illness are more apparent than others. For example, you might notice drastic mood swings, someone being paranoid, and even a deteriorating social life. These can cause issues for the person experiencing them and the people around them. And what's worse, they only add to cruel and inaccurate myths and stigmas, some of which are as follows:

  • Someone with a mental health disorder is of low intellect.
  • The parents and family are to blame for mental health problems.
  • There is a severe lack of willpower among the patient and their family.
  • There is nothing we can do about getting someone the help they need.
  • Mental health issues aren't that common, so we should ignore them.

The stigmas that usually come with mental health disorders are broad. Typically you will find that these are made worse if someone also has a physical deformity, which adds to their suffering. Additionally, research by Erving Goffman concludes that initial stigmas relating to mental and physical issues are made worse based on race, religion and background, and other social factors. While you cannot change society, there are some things you can do to help.

How You Can Help with Mental Health Stigmas

As a compassionate person, one of the worst things you can experience in society is the suffering of others. And as often is the case, people with mental health problems can suffer in silence. Yet, while mental health issues are prevalent within society, they are also experienced at home, in the workplace, and even in health and social care. So, no matter which side of the fence you sit on, there are some things you can do to help or be helped when needed.

If you experience mental health issues

Finding help for a mental health problem can be a daunting leap of faith. First, you may not even know you have an issue to begin with. Then there is the fear of admitting it because of the social stigma. However, we are beginning to talk more openly about mental health than ever before, so:

  • Seek treatment. This is obvious, but it's the most vital first step to coping with a stigma.
  • Understand there is nothing to be ashamed of, and you are not a weak person.
  • Don't isolate yourself from your social circle, and reach out to people who care.
  • Don't let your condition define you. You have an illness, but you are not the problem.
  • Learn to express your thoughts about how you feel and educate those around you.

Stigmas are made worse because of ignorance. But as someone who experiences mental health issues, you are in the best position to make others see the problems that stigma creates. From a first-hand point of view, you can make a difference by educating and telling your story.

As someone without mental health issues

If you have ever engaged with someone with mental health issues, then you may have witnessed the effects that stigma can have, severely affecting the well-being and health of the patient. As an upstanding member of society, you will find that helping others is easy:

  • Encourage the person to get help, as 40% don't because of the fear of stigma.
  • Take the time to educate yourself so you can spread mental health awareness.
  • Treat anyone with mental health problems with the same respect as others.
  • Try to focus on the positive side of issues like addiction, such as seeking treatment.
  • Examine and assess your way of thinking to realign it with modern attitudes.

When you learn to help those with an inability to help themselves, you begin to see the bigger picture. People with mental health problems are no different than you. And life is hard enough for the physically and mentally sound. So putting yourself in their shoes will help remove it.

Stigmas associated with mental health are ubiquitous in today's society. Common examples include myths about intelligence, upbringing, and willpower. And even families can shy away from relatives experiencing severe problems. But we can all work to educate and inform others about the challenges faced by those who experience mental health problems. And by doing so, not just on Silence the Shame Day, we take one step closer to eliminating stigma for good.

Jackson House offers an environment free of the stigma or shame, whatever your mental setbacks may be. If you’re seeking treatment around empathetic peers, genuine health specialists, and comfortable living spaces, we’re here to help when you’re ready.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.