People living with mental illness often say the stigma and discrimination associated with their illness can be worse than the mental illness itself.
So what is stigma?
Stigma is the rejection, avoidance or fear people direct toward those they perceive as being “different.” Stigma comes from other people, from institutions and even from self-imposed shame. Individually, each source of stigma represents a major barrier. Collectively, they can be profoundly damaging and difficult to overcome. Stigma can shatter hopes of recovery and social inclusion, leaving the person feeling devastated and isolated.
It’s time to stop the stigma of mental illness that makes it hard for people to talk about it and seek help. And the first step to stopping stigma is to address the most common way we perpetuate it: the way we talk about it.
Every day, we describe traffic as “insane,” we say our neighbor is a “psycho” or we tell our friends that the ending of a TV show was “totally nuts.” We’re not trying to offend anyone, but we’re helping to make these words intimidating and scary.
The truth is, numerous people living with mental illness go about their everyday lives and successfully fulfill their roles at school, work, home and in their community. Unless self-disclosed, no one would know that a friend, neighbor or co-worker has a diagnosable mental illness.
The likelihood they’ll disclose their mental illness is low. They will remain silent about their symptoms or their diagnoses because of stigma. This should concern us all because stigma, among other reasons, prevents many from seeking help.
Did you know that one in five children in Bexar County are experiencing mental illness? That’s 80,000 children in our community alone. And half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.
That makes children’s mental illness a major concern in our community. A community in which 14 percent of Hispanic high school students report having made a suicide plan. If even only one person in a household struggles with mental illness, it affects the whole family. Yet only 20 percent of children receive treatment.
For some people, a mental illness may be a lifelong condition, like diabetes. But, like diabetes, proper treatment enables many people to lead fulfilling and productive lives. By helping to combat the stigma associated with mental illness we can help increase the number of people that seek treatment.
Will you help us?
We challenge you to make a difference in children’s mental health today. Consider one or more of the following options:
- Visit One in Five Minds to learn more.
- Take the One in Five Minds pledge and join the campaign to build awareness and end stigma.
- Write or videotape your story and share it.
- Share this blog post.
Let’s all work together to stop the stigma.