Stigma. Noun. A mark of shame or discredit.
It’s a potent word as defined by the dictionary. Its power only exceeded by the internal pain the person carrying it experiences.
But what is the stigma of mental illness?
The weight of not only dealing with mental illness, which is what addiction ultimately is but also the cold judgments of society. Their prejudices and exclusions.
The stigma around mental illness is, unfortunately, both real and widespread.
Discrimination is so rampant that to the layperson it just appears as business as usual. It’s so ingrained that it’s imperative to continue hammering home that it exists. Continue to recognize it, name it and actively work against it.
Because the consequences are dire.
The stigma that orbits mental issues and substance abuse disorders causes delays in treatment. People will just put it off, actively making their condition worse, because the opinions of society are that harsh and difficult to bear. They’ll discontinue treatment early, have suboptimal therapeutic relationships, safety issues and generally poorer mental and physical care.
Why Is There A Stigma Around Mental Illness?
It’s seemingly a tale old as time and only recently have we been seeing a palpable change in how people view mental illness. For hundreds of years, millennia in fact, history has been unkind to those dealing with mental issues.
Unkind being a particularly kind way to describe it.
Anything that didn’t fit squarely in the box labeled “normal” has been treated harshly throughout history. From possession by evil spirits to punishment from the Gods, theories abound for the causes of what was considered abnormal behavior.
The stigma existed simply because these people were different and those suffering through the ages were shunned, killed, experimented on, looked down upon and more.
It took until the scientific revolution to begin to understand the mind in any cohesive way and some centuries after that for people to accept someone with a mental illness as fully human and not something broken to be discarded. To discover that mental conditions can be treated.
That stigma is still there and we’re just now beginning to undo the damage, change the thinking of literally thousands of years.
How Can I Help End the Stigma Around Mental Illness?
That undoing starts with each and every one of us and there is plenty we can all do to alleviate the burden of stigma.
Talk About It, Speak Out
The easiest thing to do is to just talk about mental illness. Normalize conversations around it. Actively debunk myths you overhear. If you come across someone making lewd remarks, talk to them and educate them.
Learn About It, Contextualize It
Being able to educate others about mental health requires you to take the time and learn about these things yourself. That process helps you contextualize mental illness in the human experience and understand the continuum of mental health.
Moreover, help people to understand that the compassion they show for a broken arm or leg is the same compassion they should have for those working through a mental illness. Put the physical and mental on equal footing.
Be Compassionate, Be an Advocate
Practice what you preach and stand in solidarity with those dealing with mental illness. Advocate for them. Be there for your loved ones at a time when they really do need you the most. Show them that recovery is possible, lead them to options.
Reach Out to Multi Concept Recovery for More Information
It bears repeating that recovery from mental illness and addiction is both possible and achievable these days. More importantly, on behalf of all those going through this, we must work together to destigmatize it. It’s our collective responsibility.
For more ways to help get in touch with us at Multi Concept Recovery.