Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD are difficult enough to deal with, but they become even harder to manage when it seems like the world is against you. Unfortunately, in many cases, that’s exactly what it feels like. Widespread mental health stigma can lead to feelings of isolation, misinformation, and even discrimination against individuals with mental health disorders.
From misconceptions in the general public to harmful depictions of mental health in the media, stigma is a widespread issue with serious consequences. Learn more about the reasons why mental health stigma is dangerous.
Intended and Unintended Discrimination
Mental health stigma leads to misinformation and misconceptions about mental health conditions. These misconceptions create harmful stereotypes and prejudices. Stereotypes lead to discrimination. Mental health-based discrimination can affect employment, housing, healthcare, and more.
It’s important to note that discrimination isn’t always an intentional act. For example, a supervisor might try to be fair to everyone on their team, but they still subconsciously favor other employees over a worker with a mental health condition. Moreover, mental health issues can lead to additional circumstances—such as taking more sick days or asking for accommodations—that can create problems at work.
Stigma also harms people on a more personal level. The messages you hear in the media or from friends and family have a huge influence on your thoughts, behavior, and self-esteem—even if you don’t realize it. Misconceptions about mental health, such as the idea that mental health conditions make you weak, can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. These negative thoughts and emotions can turn into isolating behaviors, low self-esteem, refusal to rely on others, and other habits that exacerbate existing symptoms of mental health conditions.
Barriers to Treatment
One of the biggest reasons why mental health stigma is dangerous is because it prevents people from seeking the support and treatments they need to heal and move forward with their lives. Depression is one of the most common examples of this. Mental health stigma tells us that depression is just a period of sadness, and that people should just get over it. This causes individuals with depression to try hiding their condition and dealing with it on their own instead of treating it like a serious medical condition and getting the professional treatment they need.
This idea applies to any kind of mental health condition. Mental health stigma reduces the likelihood of someone seeking professional help, especially if that person is surrounded by family, colleagues, and other peers who enforce that stigma.
Awareness campaigns, the sharing of mental health stories, and more accessible treatments help fight mental health stigma and its consequences. With greater understanding of what mental health is and how it affects us on an individual and societal level, we can create a healthier, more understanding, and more positive world for ourselves and everyone around us.