There is a lot of talk about mental health stigmas in the media, but many people are unfamiliar with what they are. We are essentially all familiar with the term “mental disorder” or “mental illness” to describe conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder. But the cultural and social ramifications of being diagnosed with one of these disorders is where mental health stigmas come from. Just like physical disease is concerned, it is considered undesirable to be diagnosed with a mental disorder because it means you have life struggles that other people do not have. This dislike for being associated with a mental disorder sweeps it under the rug and makes it taboo to discuss.
This, unfortunately, is very harmful to people who are struggling with mental disorders because it sends them a clear message that they are unwanted and should keep their disorder hidden if they hope to fit into society. For a person who is already struggling with mental hardships which frequently include low self esteem and insecurity, this can be devastating. It causes feelings of rejection as well as forces the person to be false about their mental state, cutting them off from necessary support. This puts them at a higher risk of acting out, which can include self destructive and even suicidal behavior. With mental disorders affecting every third person in the United States and Canada, it is very important that mental health stigmas become a thing of the past. Stigmas also keep people in need of mental health treatment from reaching out for help. A person may have a legitimate need for the help of mental disorder counseling, psych ward services or alcohol treatment centers, but they never receive it.
In order to battle mental health stigmas, we need to first make them a matter of public conversation and address them as a society. To make them a matter of public conversation, we need to lift the veil from them and initiate conversations about them. This can be accomplished by advertising the need for it on T-shirts, reading material, bumper stickers and other campaign methods. A simple T-shirt that states a clear need to do away with mental healthstigmas can be all it takes to plant a seed of change in someone’s mind for good.