Negative Stigmas Cause Mental Illness to Intensify
In a society where mental illness is generally not well understood or accepted, negative stigmas are highly present in daily life. Judgment is passed out like candy on Halloween regarding many different mental disorders, such as depression. In many ways, society blames a person for mental illness. Many people do not recognize disorders, like depression or anxiety, as legitimate illnesses. For example, health care insurance options for mental illness is extremely limited compared to the coverage offered for physical illness, which is discussed in detail by Dr. David Susman, in his article entitled “8 Reasons Why People Don’t Get Treatment For Mental Illness.” He explains that legislation was recently passed by the US Congress to address and correct these concerns, but that many details still need to be fine-tuned. In addition, those who suffer from symptoms of the sort often do not seek any treatment due to lack of resources or a fear of being judged by others. As reported by Fox News in an article entitled “More Than Half of US Adults With Mental Illness Don’t Get Needed Care,” approximately six out of ten young people suffering from major depression do not seek treatment in their life. Without proper treatment, many mental illnesses will develop and worsen over time. The negative stigmas surrounding depression directly impact the quality of life for those dealing with the illness. In many ways, these stigmas cause symptoms of the disorder to develop and intensify.
According to stereotypes and how mental illness has been portrayed throughout history in media, those suffering from a mental health issue are “crazy” or “insane.” The media’s depiction of a “crazy” person often stems from severely abnormal behaviors. The media is a direct factor as to why some people do not respect people dealing with mental illness, which is further explained in Patrick Corrigan’s “On the Stigma of Mental Illness: Practical Strategies for Research and Social Change.” The person who sits by themselves on the subway, mumbling under their breath at no one is “crazy.” Imagine this person, who is very alert and aware of everything going around him. His eyes are wide and he appears to be in a great amount of distress. Physically, he looks to be sweating profusely, and he is tapping his foot very quickly. He continues to mumble and scan his eyes around the subway car. His talking begins to get louder and turns into a shout as he yells at no one. In reaction, the surrounding passengers sense that he is extremely angered and frightened. To them, the man appears to be the exact definition of “crazy.” Upon further psychological inspection, it could be assumed that the man is suffering from delusions and hallucinations. He may have schizophrenia, which is believed to be caused by a mixture of genetics, brain chemistry, and environment. Many of these factors are uncontrollable, and therefore, the man could not control the onset of his illness. The passengers on the subway are judgmental and think that the man is causing a scene. However, the man is ill and cannot be blamed for “looking for attention” or “making up” his symptoms.
Now imagine Jane, who is a young women also sitting on the subway car. She was recently diagnosed with major depressive disorder. However, she is struggling to accept to her diagnosis. While witnessing the events transpose on the subway with the man, she can clearly see the hurtful judgment on the faces of the other passengers. No one seems to be concerned for his wellbeing. Everyone tries to keep their distance and avoid eye contact. This behavior angers Jane. She can sense the cruel thoughts that all of the witnesses have regarding the man. They all think that he is “crazy.” No one acknowledged his behavior as a legitimate mental illness or health risk. Jane compares this man to herself. She does not want to be labeled as “crazy” for her mental illness, so she does everything that she can to keep it a secret, even from her loved ones. She stops receiving treatment and attempts to ignore her symptoms. However, these actions cause Jane to struggle with her emotions and hinders her well being greatly. Her fear of being stigmatized and judged indirectly caused her symptoms of depression to increase.
There are many reasons why a person may not receive treatment for a mental illness. Among these are the fear of being judged and feeling as though they are a failure if they seek treatment. Social constructs in our society cause self doubt when a person is debating seeking help. Factors other than the person’s well being often overpower their health, which should be most important. Approximately 56% of people fail to receive treatment for major depression, for a variety of reasons. However, one of the most influential reasons as to why a person would avoid seeking treatment stems from fear of judgment by others, including family members, close friends, and co-workers. The pressure that many feel to be “perfect” causes many to deny symptoms of mental illness, which can lead to destructive, degenerative behavior. If the negative stigma regarding mental illness did not exist, or even if it was not so severe, many more people would seek treatment for mental health issues. In turn, by receiving proper care, the quality of life for those suffering from mental illness would increase dramatically. For many, treatment would help to reduce symptoms and daily struggles caused by the issue.
As a society, we treat mental illness as a taboo topic. It is not well understood and therefore often misunderstood. There are many negative stigmas surrounding the idea of mental health issues as a whole. Many do not even acknowledge disorders such as depression and anxiety as legitimate illnesses. In addition, those who suffer from mental illnesses are often falsely labeled with hateful and cruel words such as “crazy” or “unstable.” If someone suffers from a mental health issue, society will often blame the person. If someone is depressed, he is causing it himself. If someone is anxious, she is looking for attention. However, these stigmas and stereotypes are spread by ignorance and an overall lack of understanding of mental health. They can cause severe damage to an individual’s well being. Stigmas cast mental illness in a very dark shadow, which causes people to deny many if not all of their symptoms. Over time, the denial of symptoms due to fear of judgment can eventually lead to a decline in mental health when a person has an illness. Negative stigmas regarding mental health directly impacts a person’s management of an illness. These stigmas indirectly cause symptoms to intensify and affect people’s lives negatively.
Corrigan, P. W. (Ed.). (2005). On the stigma of mental illness: Practical strategies for research and social change.“
“More than Half of US Adults with Mental Illness Don’t Get Needed Care.” Fox News, FOX News Network, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/10/19/more-than-half-us-adults-with-mental-illness-dont-get-needed-care.html