Why stamp out stigma in mental health?
We must stamp out stigma in mental illness because children and young people are not receiving the treatment and support they need. Studies say 10% of children and young people (age 5-16) experience a diagnosable mental illness, yet 70% of children and adolescents have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. Children’s Society, 2008.
Are you sufficiently shocked? Enough to help stamp out the stigma associated with mental illness? I’m a fierce advocate for mental illness and determined to stamp out stigma. We need to reduce those statistics and one of the best ways is by stamping out stigma.
“..balancing time you spend with or without people is crucial for mental health.” — Amy E. Spiegel.
Give someone a call, let them you you care, especially while we’re having to isolate.Me
Stigma and mental health
Dictionary definition of stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. “The stigma of being admitted to admitted to a mental health ward will always be with me”
There’s still stigma against people with mental illness, which is a major barrier to people — particularly to young people — seeking support for mental health problems.
Stigma also leads to discrimination, which compounds the disadvantage experienced by people already wrestling with mental illness. It results in lower self-referral, less reporting of illness and less use of support services. As a result, people with mental illness are denied opportunities to equal quality of life: safe home, good job, physical and mental health care, leisure and social interactions with diverse groups of people.
Stigma is everywhere
I’m not sure about where you live, but I know that stigma remains rife in the UK. Fear and ignorance of mental illness exists in our communities, in the workplace, in schools and colleges and even in some healthcare settings.
The stigma attached to mental illness is noticeable in lots of ways. It can be seen in the language often used relating to mental illness:
- People, more often young people, still use terminology that’s dismissive, hurtful, offensive or just downright rude! Obviously this can be really distressing – especially if it comes from a loved one, a family member or friend, colleagues or even healthcare workers.
- We’ve all heard the negative words used “he’s mad”, “you’re nuts”, “you should be in the loony bin” or “I’m a bit bipolar today”. I even heard one mother say of her son when he was formally admitted to an acute in-patient ward, “my son ain’t no window licker, he don’t belong in here with them nutters.”
- One study in 2007 quoted “teenagers came up with 250 words and terms used to stigmatise people with mental illness.”
- People really need to be more mindful when discussing someone who has a mental illness i.e. “People with mental illness” are not “the mentally ill”, and “Jamie isn’t schizophrenic”, “Jamie has schizophrenia” and “Hannah isn’t bipolar”, “Hannah has bipolar disorder”. Imagine for a second, “Mary is cancer”. No? We’d say “Mary has cancer”.
Reducing the stigma
People’s negative and often cruel word choices can contribute to the social stigma that might further marginalize individuals of all socioeconomic backgrounds living with mental illnesses. Changing the derogatory words people use to describe mental illness can go a long way to reducing the stigma.
We must break down the damaging misconceptions and stereotypes around mental illness that create strong barriers to people seeking help. By eliminating barriers to care, educating people about the benefit of help-seeking behavior and promoting recovery and resiliency, we will Stamp Out Stigma.
Will you join me in stamping out stigma? Will you think about the way you, your family (including children), or friends address mental illness and the people who experience it? Would you correct someone else’s misconceptions about mental illness or challenge any discriminatory words they use? I look forward to your comments, any suggestions or questions.