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Our Mental Health Blogs

Stigma of Mental Illness

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week. It’s been going on since 1990 (22 years ago).

HealthyPlace‘s question of the day on Facebook on Monday was:

Do you think we’ve made progress in the acceptance of mental illness since [1990]?

In many ways I think the stigma of mental illness got worse instead of better. Even though more and more people are being diagnosed with mental illness every year, there are still so many misunderstandings about it. These misunderstandings leave many people feeling more different, alone, and self judgmental than ever.

Drug companies, in disguised attempts to sell drugs (the disguise being the intention to stop stigma) actually contribute to mental health stigma instead. They say that people with depression need anti-depressives like diabetics need insulin. They talk about chemical imbalance. In the public eye, they appear taking the blame away from person. We eat this up and agree and repeat it thinking we are being politically correct. We think this helps people with mental illness. But it helps pharmaceuticals sell their medications.

The truth is we are never balanced, our hormones are changing constantly, up and down with our hourly experiences and daily happenings. Our hormones respond to our mood and our mood responds to our hormones. Hormonal change is normal functioning.

I am not saying that medications are bad, they save and relieve millions of people. I just have a problem with defining people by saying they “need” it. When deciding about medication, it important to look at the risks and benefits. “Needing” the medication is what makes people lose touch with their personal agency. And what ultimately has them feeling so different, weak, and defeated. This is the stigma. However, if they felt like they had the power to chose medicines because those medicines benefitted their progress toward their goal, or if they felt like they could chose not to take medicine and try something different, mental illness would be experienced differently.

And we can finally do something to stop the stigma that plagues us.

Big Pharma wants people to believe that taking a pill with be a quick fix, and that a given diagnosis means they need it. This makes people think they are inherently flawed and contributes to the stigma that people who experience mental health problems feel more than any other cultural discourse.

But for full healing, it is important to work on our problems, too. To face them and get over them, with therapy, church, alternative practitioners, self help groups, on retreats, by reading books, or sharing with our closest friends–while taking or chosing not to take the medicine.  Each and every person can benefit from these.

People with mental illness want to know that they can improve, that their lives can improve, and that they themselves can do something about it. Families and communities want to feel helpful, instead of afraid and useless.

With a good practitioner, this can work wonders on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. This can eliminate the stigma via a different route.  Talking about mental illness and clarifying what it is can help. Let’s keep the discussion going.

What do you think the biggest contributor of mental health stigma? Comment below.

By Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I blog here: Heal Now and Forever Be In Peace
and here: Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog,
share here: Twitter@JodiAmanGoogle+
inspire here: Facebook: Heal Now and Forever Be in Peace,
Get my free E-book: What Is UP In Your DOWN? Being Grateful in 7 Easy Steps.

17 thoughts on “Stigma of Mental Illness”

  1. I think the biggest contributor to stigma is the negative portrayal of people with mental illness in the media. 99% of the time they are crazed killers. At best mental illness is mixed up with mental retardation. If they do have a a documentary it’s about an extreme case rather than about someone living well with a mental illness.

    I do disagree that stigma is worse, though. In 1990 I would have died before I told anyone that I had been diagnosed with a mental illness. Maybe it’s middle age, but I posted a thing on facebook in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week and said, “I have a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder so I hope you will read the following from [national organization]”. I had a very favorable response…maybe because they know me, but I would never have posted it in 1990. Stigma is certainly rampant, but I have seen improvement.

  2. Media, it seems that a lot of the information the media focuses on is the negative aspects of mental illness, such as violent behavior. They tend to report on, make movies, etc on the worst case senerios.

  3. Hi Jodi
    My world collapsed in Jan 2010 and I was in a psychiatric hospital whilst they tried to save my life. My article, “Suicide Blonde,” at my blog – http://www.theSarayiahpost.com – is an unbridled account of this and why I am still alive today to tell the story.

    I set my blog up to try and help others using my experiences… and I always refused medication.

    Hope you have had a good day and thank you for the time in writing your article.

  4. Nice post. I agree- medication is a tool, and one of many- but unfortunately, increasingly the only one in many doctor’s tool kits. And I say doctor, not psychiatrist, because most people with mental illness don’t even see a psychiatrist anymore. And if all you need is a pill, and diagnosis is nothing more than a checklist, then who needs psychiatrists?

  5. Jodi, you’ve brought a very interesting perspective to this piece. If pharma is telling people they need something, then I can see how that affects/weakens a person’s feeling of themselves, their voice, and their choice. If they choose to take medication as it’s a tool that works for them, then they do it from a place of strength. It’s subtle, but it’s big.

  6. Mental disorders unlike other somatic illnesses are disarray of psychic functions with pertain phenomenology, course and consequences. As such, they cause many misunderstanding in public opinion, which ones exhibit tremendous dread to person with mental difficulties and their close relatives as well. The main misconception on real nature of mental pathology consist on its simplification by different socio-cultural subjects, with great influence in community. Among them pharmaceutical industry leads this antipsychiatric circle. it ought to know everyone that mental illnesses are complex bio-psycho-social disruption that require all the same three-dimensional therapeutic approaching. Each one-sided treatment option would be incomplete and of temporary overcome.In order to achieve this hopeful management of mental disorders it should to participate many other formal and informal institution along psychiatric care system. Among them educational system ought to reform theirs curricula to improve interpersonal relation. It didn’t exclude the contribute of different political, cultural and religious institutions in the development of humane social milieu. Their activity in this direction has great impact in the long term process of recovering of mentally ill person and their families. Without this holistic approaching the treatment of psychiatric entities would be reduse to chemical fixation of mentally ill patients with great arsenal of Pharma. This condition in psychiatry is adversely, because Pharma makes a good profit of its products, while psychiatric patients are excluded and inhibited from life pleasant.

  7. I have always been against the medicine i was prescribed and that is why I never really committed myself in taking anything as prescribed and as long as it was prescribed. if i do now, its just because of a promise I made. It has never helped me, never felt any difference.

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