Throughout history, many people have had negative thoughts and opinions about mental health. The level of knowledge among the public regarding mental health problems has always been poor, with negative beliefs, preconceived notions, and attitudes being widespread.
Stigma occurs when society labels someone as tainted or less desirable. Stigma involves three elements:
- Ignorance: a lack of knowledge
- Prejudice: negative attitudes
- Discrimination: people behaving in ways that disadvantage the stigmatized person
There are two different types of mental health stigma: social stigma and perceived stigma. Social stigma is characterized by prejudicial attitude and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric/psychological label they have been given. Prejudicial stigma is the internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their discrimination.
In relation to social stigma, studies have suggested that stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental health problems are widespread and commonly held. The three most common mental health stigmas are:
- People with mental health problems are dangerous—especially those with schizophrenia, alcoholism, and drug dependence
- Some mental health problems such as eating disorders and substance abuse are self-inflicted
- Mental health problems are uncommon and sufferers rarely recover due to ineffective treatments
Stigma embraces both prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior towards individuals with mental health problems, and the social effects of this includes exclusion, poor social support, poorer subjective quality of life, and low self-esteem. As well as its effect on the quality of daily living, stigma also has a detrimental effect on treatment outcomes, and hinders efficient and effective recovery from mental health problems.
What Factors Cause Mental Health Stigma?
The social stigmas of mental health are caused by multiple factors. Throughout history, for example, people with mental health problems have been treated differently. More specifically, they have been excluded and even brutalized. Early beliefs about the causes of mental health problems, such as demonic or spirit possession, placed a negative connotation around mental health, that from the very beginning, made people cautious and fearful around those suffering from mental health issues.
Even the medical model of mental health diagnoses itself is an unwitting source of stigmatizing beliefs. Since mental health typically involves some kind of diagnosis, it implies that people with mental health problems are patients, which can also carry a negative connotation. If people with mental health problems are thought to be patients, then people tend to think they must be treated with caution.
How to Eliminate Stigma
The fact that such negative attitudes appear to be so entrenched suggests that any solution will have to be multifaceted. More than just imparting knowledge about mental health issues will have to be done. People will need to challenge existing negative stereotypes especially as they are portrayed in the general media. Educational campaigns are a great way to achieve this goal.
Educational campaigns often target the media to ensure a more balanced and accurate coverage of mental health issues. This is crucial as the media can perpetuate negative stereotypes through inaccurate and distorted reporting of news stories.
Tackling stigma is not only the responsibility of those organizing large scale campaigns. A ‘bottom up’ approach is also necessary to break the stigma behind mental health. People who have suffered from a mental health problem, family members, health care professionals and the general public must also work to challenge negative stereotypes that they encounter, whether at work or socially. The more educated and knowledgeable people are, the closer we can get to destroying the stigma.
Early Intervention and Treatment is Critical
While eliminating the mental health stigma is crucial for our society, it is also important to seek help for those struggling with their mental health. If people know there is hope and a road to recovery is available, then they will begin to see the faults in their stigma. Seeking treatment can completely turn one’s life around giving them the chance to get back to the life they had before their trauma.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for both PTS and PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, and similar mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. Normally, only one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychiatric treatment.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing an individual from enjoying the full life they deserve. The techniques work equally well on bullying victims, combat veterans, and others.
Do not let any mental health problem control your life or the lives of the people around you. Regardless of how bad things may seem, there is always hope, even when you feel there is none. Contact ART International to learn more about the therapy or find a therapist near you.