The Stigma of Mental Illness


The Stigma of Mental IllnessDo you know of someone who is going through bouts of depression? Is a neighbor, perhaps a friend’s friend finding it difficult to go out of his/her home because of social anxiety disorder? These are just some examples of the types of mental disorders a friend or relative could face.

Currently, mental health problems are experienced by over 450 million people in the world. Yes, you read that right. An estimated of over 450 million out of the 7 billion people in the world suffers from mental health problems. It is a serious health problem that a lot of people tend to dismiss. Those suffering from it have trouble making friends, finding employment, staying in a committed relationship, and are generally excluded from the social crowd. Because of the illness, many recoil, in shame or fear, and are being looked down on. There is the prevailing stigma that people with mental disabilities face. People with mental illnesses are usually perceived and treated differently than those who don’t suffer from one. This in turn worsens their attempt at recovery instead of alleviating from it. Almost 9 out of 10 individuals with mental health problems state that the stigma has had a negative effect in their lives. Instead of getting better, they fall back into the same negative, anxious or depressed cycle. Worse, new symptoms begin to arise.

Furthermore, the stigma can get to a point of such inconsideration and unfairness, resulting in a number of individuals denied decent housing and health insurance—all due to the history of mental problems. Does this sound justifiable? It has gotten to a point where many individuals diagnosed with a mental health problem are living in fear and deny seeking help from a professional because of how others will perceive them. In fact, health care for the mentally ill is underfunded and often poorly supported in the United States. According to former congressman Patrick Kennedy, “Mental health is a separate but unequal system. We have a wasteland of people who have died and been disabled because of inadequate care.” Many still need to understand and acknowledge that a mental illness is just as crucial as a physical one.

This stigma is real and this stigma continues. The best an individual can do is to reverse the negative perception of a mentally-ill person and inform people surrounding the patient of accurate health facts so the illness can be accepted, controlled, and remedied in the best possible methods.



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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD