About 1 in 5 adults in the United States will experience some form of mental health issue in their lifetime. Given how common mental health issues are, it’s amazing that there is still a stigma. But there absolutely is.
Some people are shamed into thinking that their depression, anxiety, or other mental illness are their fault. Many people with mental illness have had the experience of being advised to get over their blues or snap out of their anxiety. I often have a good chuckle with people who have panic disorder and have been told to “calm down!” in the midst of a panic attack, as though they hadn’t thought of that already.
I think that cycle of shame is partly what perpetuates stigma. The truth is that people with mental illnesses are some of the bravest folks I know. Sometimes, as the saying goes, the bravest and most important thing you can do is show up.
The good news is that we can all fight stigma by having the courage to discuss mental health issues openly. But watch the language! People have disorders, but they are not the disorder. Nobody should be referred to as “a borderline,” for example. Rather, (s)he is a person who has borderline personality disorder. Another way to fight stigma is through education of the true causes and symptoms of mental illness, and the treatment necessary for it. Psychologists are great at treating depression and anxiety. Often it’s friends and family who are the ones to encourage and support an individual through that first trip to a therapist’s office.
Here are a couple great resources:
Let’s keep the conversation going.
— Jennifer Geiger, Ph.D., ABPP-CN