When a person is identified with mental health issues, they are often described as: “Oh, she’s crazy”, “Yeah, that guy is a maniac”, “That person is nuts.” All of these phrases, which are super negative, are creating the wrong perception of mental health. Why? Because these phrases have developed a major stigma around mental health and mental illness within our society. By destigmatizing mental health and improving our mental health care system overall, everyone can be happier and healthier.
Why destigmatizing mental health is important
According to a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicines (NAS), destigmatizing mental health and mental illness can only happen in our culture, if we implement a serious national effort involving health agencies, the criminal justice system, employers, schools, and the media.
Destigmatizing mental health is important, because many people go years without being treated due to the negative connotation linked to mental health. According to a report by the Child Mind Institute, only 35 percent of children get the help they need for psychiatric illnesses.
That same report showed that: 80 percent of children with anxiety disorders are not getting treatment; 40 percent of children with ADHD aren’t getting treatment; 60 percent of children with depression aren’t getting treatment; and 70.4 percent of youth in juvenile justice systems meet the criteria for psychiatric disorders.
By destigmatizing mental health, people will be more willing to seek treatment. People are scared to be perceived as “crazy” or “unstable,” because society looks at mental illness as a negative thing. Gradually, we are getting more and more educated about mental illness and the importance of getting treatment, but we still have a long way to go before the stigma will disappear completely.
How you can help
Everyone can play a part in helping to destigmatize mental health. Here are some of the things you can do on a daily basis:
- Educate yourself and others about symptoms of different mental illnesses: The more we know about mental illness, the less scary it seems.
- Encourage friends and family to seek treatment: No one should feel like they need to hide their mental illness or substance use issue from people. Seeking treatment and having support is important for anyone struggling with a mental health issue, because it will improve their chances of living happy, healthy lives.
- Don’t shame those with mental health issues: Using words like “crazy”, “nuts”, and “freak” only further the stigma of mental health. Avoid using words that will make others feel isolated and encourage the negative feelings associated with mental illness.