The Pandemic's Impact on Mental Health Stigma
The global pandemic has altered many aspects of our day-to-day lives, but what is its impact on mental health stigma? From what I've seen of discussions and news reports and so forth, more and more folks are experiencing mental health struggles during this change in lifestyle and time of uncertainty. I wonder, though, what impact that might have on how mental health is treated by society.
How Views of Mental Health May Shift Because of the Pandemic
Could it be that society's views of mental health will shift? Will those shifted views reduce stigma? I think a lot of it will have to do with many of the same factors that already impact how mental health is perceived, such as culture, location, financial factors, and many other things. Generally speaking, it could still reasonably go either way: mental health stigma may become more prevalent, or it may see a reduction to some degree.
The pandemic's impact on mental health stigma could be reinforced in terms of people who didn't struggle feeling those who did are just weak-willed or complaining about nothing. I feel we've already seen a lot of that in the day-to-day since early 2020. The mental and emotional impacts of the pandemic keeping us indoors for our safety, limiting us from loved ones (especially in moments of crisis or end of life), and more may simply be seen as things to be gotten over. This would mirror the way many mental health issues are already treated.
On the other side of the coin, we may see some alleviation of mental health stigma due to the pandemic as more folks learn what it means to struggle with feelings of anxiousness and depression on a regular basis. These more widespread experiences may garner a more empathetic approach to mental health struggles and perhaps mental illness.
Conversations About Mental Health Stigma Are Narrow
The problem I see, however, is that this empathy and alleviation of mental health stigma would still have a narrowed view. What I mean is we'll still be talking about the same mental health struggles that already have a lot of ongoing conversation, namely depression and anxiety disorders. There is still absolutely stigma related to these mental health conditions, but overall, they're spoken about a lot and are often household names when it comes to mental illness and raising awareness for mental health conditions.
Even if mental health stigma after the pandemic doesn't appear "as bad" on the surface, there are still large portions of the conversation that'll be missing. Disorders like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and a litany of other conditions that are lesser-known and lesser understood (if known or understood at all) by the general public will still be in the shadows of these conversations.
Pay Attention to Impacts of the Pandemic on Mental Health Stigma
Regardless of how the perception of mental health shifts during the pandemic—whether for better or worse—keeping these narrowed views and overall gaps in the conversation in mind is going to be vital. I feel people are more comfortable with accepting anxiety and depression because, on some level, they're relatable since feelings of anxiety and depression, even when not diagnosable as disorders, are things people understand and have experience with. It's hard to understand and relate to many other mental health conditions that exist.
It's likely there will be an impact from the pandemic on mental health stigma. It'll be up to us to pay attention to and recognize any changes in these perceptions so we can continue to find ways to effectively reduce mental health stigma for all mental health conditions.
Barton, L. (2021, March 8). The Pandemic's Impact on Mental Health Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, April 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2021/3/the-pandemics-impact-on-mental-health-stigma