Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions. As we focus on National Mental Health Month in May, it is important to bring awareness of how to help those who struggle with mental illness daily and how to change the perception of mental illness.
The stigma of mental health has harmful effects and may include reluctance to seek help or treatment; follow recommended treatment plan; lack of understanding by family, friends, coworkers or others; bullying, fear, mistrust, physical violence or harassment; prejudice or discrimination; and the belief that your diagnosis defines who you are or what you are capable of doing.
How does someone with a mental health disorder cope with the stigma?
• Do not let the fear of a diagnosis prevent you from adequate treatment with a mental health provider. Get treatment. Proper treatment may provide you with relief and understanding of symptoms.
• Do not let the stigma create self-doubt and shame. Some people perceive mental health as a weakness or symptoms that may be self-controlled. Seeking counseling may assist in improving self-esteem, and overcome your own self destructive judgment.
• Do not isolate yourself. Reach out to those that support you, join a support group such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
• Do not equate yourself with your mental illness. Rather than saying “I’m depressed”, say “I have depression.” Use respectful language. Refrain from words such as crazy, lunatic, psycho or retarded and correct people who do use such language.
• Get help at school. If either you or your child has a mental illness, speak with the school regarding programs, and assistance that is available. Discrimination against students due to mental health illness is against the law. Educators are therefore required to educate students best that they can. If a teacher does not understand the child’s mental health diagnosis it may lead to barriers to learning and poor grades, and social problems.
In teaching others about mental illness and spreading understanding that these illnesses are like any other, we can reduce the negative effects of this stigma and help those with mental health disorders get the treatment and support they need to cope and adequately function.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.