No matter how many celebrities talk about mental health, society constantly takes two steps forward and one step back on the issue. On one hand, we all understand that anyone, at any time, can struggle with some type of mood disorder for numerous reasons. On the other, there’s still considerable stigmatization and discrimination regarding mental health treatment. Ultimately, it’s critical to take care of your health, and that’s the only thing that matters.
A Long History of Misunderstanding
We’ve been conditioned to be fearful of emotional and mental health problems, simply because they’re not always as easily diagnosed or treated as some physical ailments. But the stigma around mood disorders has existed for centuries. Here are just a couple of examples:
The National Library of Medicine references a study about hysteria, referred to as “undoubtedly the first mental disorder attributable to women, accurately described in the second millennium BC, and until Freud considered it an exclusively female disease.” Its history of complicated diagnosis and bizarre treatment methods—everything from unwarranted hysterectomies to “prescriptions” of marriage, frequent sexual intercourse, and pregnancy—resulted in scores of women suffering needlessly with misunderstood mental health issues.
- Behavioral scientists now recognize hysteria is a mental health disorder that includes several motor, psychic, and sensory disturbances, and often the symptom of another condition, such as personality disorder, anxiety, or depression. People (not just biological women) who have suffered trauma or adverse childhood experiences may display symptoms of hysteria.
Another study published in the journal Psychiatric Rehabilitation points to the stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Common perceived stereotypes of treatment-seeking veterans with PTSD included labels such as ‘dangerous/violent’ or ‘crazy’, and a belief that combat veterans are responsible for having PTSD. Most participants reported avoiding treatment early on to circumvent a label of mental illness.”
- Today, there’s a deeper understanding not only about PTSD, who it affects, and its wide-ranging impact, but also how to create more effective treatment methods based on each individual.
Stigma and Mental Health Treatment
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) provides a more in-depth look into why stigma interferes with people getting proper medical care. Here are some of its facts:
- “More than half of people with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders. Often, people avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently or fears of losing their jobs and livelihood.”
- “Stigma around mental illness is especially an issue in some diverse racial and ethnic communities and it can be a major barrier to people from those cultures accessing mental health services.”
- Researchers outline three primary types of stigma:
- “Public stigma involves the negative or discriminatory attitudes that others have about mental illness.”
- “Self-stigma refers to the negative attitudes, including internalized shame, that people with mental illness have about their own condition.”
- “Institutional stigma is more systemic, involving policies of government and private organizations that intentionally or unintentionally limit opportunities for people with mental illness. Examples include lower funding for mental illness research or fewer mental health services relative to other health care.”
- “Media representations of people with mental illness can influence perceptions and stigma, and they have often been negative, inaccurate, or violent representations.”
Interestingly, the APA also notes that when people speak up about mental and emotional wellness, just as they do about physical wellness, it reduces fear and makes conditions more relatable.
How to Overcome Fear of Mental Health Treatment
Understandably, this doesn’t happen in an instant, and there are many factors to consider. These points may help.
Reframe the situation
If you broke your ankle, would you ignore going to the emergency room for proper treatment? Of course not. It’s essential for all of us to normalize mental health care as we do physical health care.
Believe in your worth
You have value and deserve to feel your best. Proper mental and emotional health care can provide that. Talk with someone you trust—a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or someone else—who will listen to your concerns and maybe help you take action.
Release blame, guilt, and shame
Acknowledge that there’s no reason to feel negatively about your mental health. That’s likely the influence of self-stigma conditioned by public and institutional stigmas. Recognize that you have the ability to reduce suffering and can take charge of your healing. You wouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed of having a broken ankle and thus, there’s no reason to consider your mental and emotional health care any differently.
Plan small actions
Ease into the idea of treatment step-by-step so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. Start by setting a goal to research different therapeutic options. Then, choose two or three options you think can help. After that, set appointments with each, and so on.
Contact Ivory Plains
At some point, you have an “ah-ha” moment and realize you don’t feel well. As much as you want to figure out why, sometimes clarity only happens with professional guidance that finally puts all the puzzle pieces together.
If you need help with addiction or a substance use disorder, be sure to reach out to the caring individuals at Ivory Plains Recovery Center.