Despite the fact that there are 43.8 million people in the United States who experience mental illness each year, stigma is still rampant, and continues to cause damaging effects. It’s clear that if someone has a medical concern, such as an open wound, they would need to seek treatment immediately to abate the issue. Yet for those with mental illness, this simple equation of problem and help-seeking become much more complicated when stigma is involved. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, perhaps you too have struggled with seeking treatment for your disorder. Stigma can significantly impact a person’s ability and willingness to seek help, and we will explore the reasons of this here.
First, stigma is often a form of social disapproval of a person based on certain characteristics that seem to distinguish them from the rest of society. These characteristics, along with a general misunderstanding of a disorder, are a dangerous mix that only serve to worsen the issue rather than ameliorate it. For example, a person with schizophrenia may be deemed as dangerous by society, which in turn could cause them difficulty in finding a proper support group, which is very important for their recovery. In reality, those with schizophrenia are more likely to cause harm to themselves than others – making this stigma one that directly affects the individual with the disorder.
Second, stigma can become internalized, causing a person to feel as though they are not capable of recovering. For example, suppose a person with major depressive disorder has been told several times by other people that they just need to “look on the brighter side of things” or “snap out of it”. This over-simplification of depression may cause the individual with the disorder to think to themselves, “If it’s that simple, maybe there’s just something wrong with me. Maybe I’m just meant to stay like this.” In turn, this person has talked themselves out of the very treatment that they direly need.
Lastly, stigma can be experienced in healthcare settings, which may cause a person to fear seeking treatment. For example, a 2014 study published in the journal Psychological Medicine sought to explore previous literature on help-seeking and stigma. They analyzed 144 studies with a total of 90,189 participants and found that stigma was the fourth-highest ranked barrier to help-seeking, with the main concern being disclosure. This is what makes it even more important that individuals working in healthcare settings strive towards inclusion and quality care, so that nobody has to become afraid of seeking help.
Therapy is a primary component of treatment for rehabilitation from a substance use disorder and/or mental health disorder. Attending treatment with certified clinicians and counselors is critical for a full recovery. At one of New Vista Behavioral Health’s treatment providers, you are receiving exceptional care, held to a higher standard. Our programs result in better outcomes, ensuring a better recovery. For information call us today: 888-316-3665.