Back in the 20th century, there was not a lot of knowledge about mental illness, and unfortunately, those who were treated for mental illness were often considered insane or even possessed. While there has been progress made on the treatment and the stigma behind mental illness, there still exists a stigma surrounding mental illness, even in the year of 2021.
Certain examples that prove the existence of the mental health stigma are the social notions and self-perceived notions about mental health. Let me start with the social notions about the mental health stigma. Some social notions about mental health are: mental illness is less severe than physical illness and that one who is suffering from mental illness can quickly recover from mental illness. These notions are completely FALSE. Mental health is equally important as physical health and if left untreated, can result in deteriorating physical health. In addition, it is extremely difficult for one with a mental illness to suddenly recover without receiving proper treatment, which often requires medication. In fact, many common mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, major depression, etc are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, which can only be effectively treated with medications.
Now when it comes to addressing the self-perceived notions regarding the stigma of mental health, they are quite similar to the social notions. When one first experiences mental illness, one does not often seek help or treatment because one usually believes that he or she can easily recover from mental illness. My answer to those who have the self perceived notions that mental illness is not serious and easily recoverable is that mental illness is extremely common (about 1 in 5 Americans experiences a mental illness every year). Also, I would like to reiterate that mental illness is extremely serious. As aforementioned, not treating mental illness can lead to plenty of harmful physical consequences, which vary from person to person.
As I have addressed the common stigma behind mental illness, the question becomes: how do we destigmatize mental illness? The first step is to raise mental health awareness. Celebrities who speak out about their mental health issues from the past or present or their mental health conditions contribute a great deal to mental health awareness because of their large audiences and platforms.
Let’s take a look at swimmer Michael Phelps, one of the most decorated Olympic athletes of all time, who has been extremely open about his history with depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Phelps has admitted that he voluntarily checked himself into a treatment center after a DUI. I am extremely thankful for Phelps’s honesty regarding his mental health struggles and even acknowledging the importance of self care and treatment when it comes to mental health. As Phelps is regarded as a hero to many Americans, his history of mental illness indicates that mental illness is more prevalent than perceived and can happen to anybody of any status.
Raising awareness about mental illness, which will help to destigmatize it, can occur on many different platforms. Some people decide to share articles or post personal stories or stories about friends or loved ones on social media. The upcoming month of May, which is known in the United States as Mental Health Awareness Month, is a popular time for people to spread awareness about mental illness. Writing about mental illness on a blog or a website, like what I am doing, is another good way to raise awareness about mental illness. Finally, others decide to volunteer for mental health nonprofit organizations in order to raise awareness for mental illness. I also volunteer at NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness), which is the largest grassroots nonprofit mental health organization in the United States by giving presentations to audiences about my history of bipolar disorder and recovery with the help of treatment. I highly recommend volunteering at NAMI or at other mental health organizations! Doing so is for a great cause and the time commitment can be tailored to your schedule!
Thank you for taking the time to read my fourth blog about how to destigmatize mental illness. It is an extremely important issue that still exists to this day. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to my email at email@example.com . Please subscribe to my blog site and share my blogs with family and friends!