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Do you know that three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced this stigma? Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. In this case, the stigma surrounding mental illness goes well beyond the patient in question – it’s societal, personal and often affects families in drastically fearful ways. We have come a long way on the road to destigmatizing mental illness, but our work has only just begun.

Why is there a stigma surrounding mental health?

The broad spectrum of mental illness is incredibly complex, yet the stigma surrounding it thrives on a lack of knowledge, a subconscious willingness to resist and a fear of the unknown. The fewer knowledge people have about mental illnesses, the more likely they are to negatively label and stereotype someone with a diagnosis by using terms like “crazy,” “weird” and “dangerous.” In many cases, the misguided notion that all mental illnesses equate to danger is what feeds this stigma, as well as a lack of exposure to people who fall within the spectrum.

How do mental health patients typically respond to this stigma?

The more those with mental illnesses pick up on negative attitudes and stereotypes, the more likely they are to develop a “self-stigma” and distance themselves from their diagnosis and suggested treatment. Think about it – how lost would you feel if the people around you distanced themselves from you because of something out of your control? Now imagine that you truly felt like no one would ever support or accept your diagnosis – why get help? This cycle of fear, social rejection, and isolation among individuals and families experiencing mental illness is detrimental. The feelings associated with this stigma can include:

  • Shame
  • Blame
  • Denial
  • Distress
  • Embarrassment
  • Pressure
  • Hopelessness
  • Reluctance to seek treatment/continue medication.

How can we work together to break the cycle of this stigma?

It is critical for people to understand that a mental illness is not something of which to be ashamed. If you speculate that you may have a mental illness or if your loved ones have indicated to you that you should seek treatment – you are not alone. Statistics indicate that about 42.5 million American adults suffer from some form of mental illness, including conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. It is also important to understand that the median age of onset for mood disorders is about 30-years-old. Help us destigmatize mental illness in the following ways:

  • Educate yourself about the broad spectrum of mental illnesses
  • Share the information you learn with the people around you
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions or using stereotypes when addressing mental health
  • Ask that your friends and family avoid speaking negatively about mental illnesses
  • Do not label, judge, or discriminate against people with a mental illness
  • Never say things like “You’re crazy” or “I can’t be around you anymore” to someone in your life experiencing mental illness
  • Be open and honest about your own experiences with mental illness
  • Listen, be supportive and guide those around you who need to be evaluated for mental illnesses to valuable resources.

CBT Solutions of Baltimore provides psychological services to adolescents (aged 8 years and up) and adults in the Greater Baltimore region, specifically specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for fear, worry, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions. We specialize in many CBT techniques, including Exposure Therapy, Habit Reversal Training, Cognitive Therapy and more. Contact us today for more information on how we can help.