The stigmas surrounding mental health and addiction continue to produce harmful effects on many lives. The effects of stigma lower self-esteem in individuals who struggle with mental illness. Stigma also reduces hope and motivation to seek treatment.
It is crucial to understand stigma and how discriminatory behavior is dangerous to those who need professional support and guidance to heal from mental illness and addiction.
What Is a Stigma?
A stigma is a negative or unfair belief placed on a person or group of people for having a distinguished trait or attribute that is thought to be, or presents itself as, a disadvantage. There are several categories of stigma, including social stigma, self-stigma, and even public stigma.
Stigmas began many years ago from a massive spread of false information regarding inaccurate representations of mental illness. They can be subtle or obvious, conscious or unconscious, although any amount of stigma will likely lead to harm.
Effects of Stigmas
While stigmas are negative stereotypes, the main concern is that unresolved stigma brings about discriminatory behavior toward the stigmatized group.
Stigmas most often result from a combination of fear, misunderstanding, and lack of understanding. While most of the general public may accept the nature of mental or medical conditions alongside the need for treatment, many people still hold stigma toward those who struggle with illness. It is essential to understand that stigmas affect not only the individual stigmatized but also family members and other loved ones who support them.
Stigmas Surrounding Mental Health and Addiction
Mental health has recently become an important topic of conversation in daily life. When mental health became a topic of research in the 1950s, those who struggled with mental illness were considered untreatable due to the lack of knowledge and ignorance surrounding the topic.
Although conversations about mental health are becoming more normalized, there are still heavy mental health stigmas associated with those that struggle with or seek help for their emotional distress. There are also more specific stigmas surrounding certain mental health conditions, which falsely represent entire groups of people in a negative or offensive way. Throughout the years, this has caused people to make quick judgments or opinions about a person based on something they are struggling with, which is then generalized to an entire population of people.
False Beliefs About Mental Illnesses
A common stigma surrounding those struggling with mental illness is that they are potentially violent, dangerous, untreatable, or unstable. Another example is that people who struggle with depression may be perceived as lazy or incapable. These beliefs cannot be generalized. These stigmas can cause even greater damage to an individual’s ability to get the help they need to heal.
Stigmas Surrounding Addiction
The stigma surrounding addiction affects drug users of any kind. Those who choose to use drugs could struggle with deeper mental health issues, whereas societal rejection and stigma can drive a user to intensify their substance use. The stigmas associated with addiction can cause people to ignore warning signs that might be surfacing within them, making it more difficult to understand their need for treatment.
Stigma Surrounding Medication
There is also the stigma associated with people who use drugs to treat their mental or medical illnesses. People may think that the need for antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications is a quick fix for a deeper issue, but this also results from a lack of knowledge.
Many medications used to treat mental illness allow people to experience relief from overwhelming or unbearable mental health distress. Often, treatment programs recommend people to use their medication in combination with psychotherapy sessions to make treatment more effective overall.
How to Challenge Stigma
There is no reason for someone to feel less than or judged, no matter the context. Although eradicating stigmas will take effort and time, society must learn how to fight the stigmas still present today.
Challenging stigmas can help motivate those struggling to seek out the help they need to achieve lifelong recovery. It can also normalize conversations surrounding the topic of struggle in general, helping people learn to be more compassionate and non-judgmental toward others.
Several ways that you can help reduce the stigmas surrounding mental illness and addiction include:
- Becoming educated about mental illness, addiction, treatment, and recovery
- Understanding that mental illness and addiction are complex conditions rooted deeply in the brain
- Practice active listening without judgment
- Treating those that use drugs with the autonomy that they deserve
- Normalize conversations surrounding drug use and mental illness
- Stand up for the minority, especially when someone talks negatively about those that use drugs or are in treatment
- Practicing compassion to everyone
- Uncovering unconscious biases and replacing biases with evidence-based facts
Stigma is a negative attitude or belief toward someone for having a distinguished attribute, such as a mental illness, addiction, or other health condition. Stigmas originate from fear, a lack of knowledge, or a lack of understanding about certain experiences or conditions. It is crucial to understand the impacts that stigma has on those who struggle with mental illness or addiction, such as making it more difficult to seek out the treatment they need to heal. Bella Monte Recovery Center is devoted to helping clients uncover the obstacles that stand in their way of long-term recovery. We openly discuss the harmful effects of stigma in a comfortable and safe atmosphere. We know what you are going through, and we are here to walk with you and guide you as you heal. To learn more about our treatment facility, reach out to us at Bella Monte today by calling (800) 974-1938.