Big Pharma's Message Encourages Mental Health Stigma

October 10, 2012 Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

Big pharma propagates mental health stigma by convincing us we 'need' medication to cope with mental illness. What do we really need instead? Read this.

Big Pharma contributes to mental health stigma in its attempts to sell psychiatric drugs. Big Pharma's message is that people with depression need anti-depressives like diabetics need insulin and talk about chemical imbalance in the brain. They appear to be taking the blame away from person, but they are not. We eat this up and agree and repeat it thinking we are being politically correct. We think this helps people with mental illness feel less stigmatized. But it helps Big Pharma sell its message, and 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.

Big Pharma's Stigma Inducing Message

I am not saying that Big Pharma's medications are bad--they save and relieve millions of people. I just have a problem with saying consumers "need" medication to live well.

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 that Big Pharma wants to continue so consumers continue buying psychiatric medication. However, if they felt like they had the power to choose medicines because those medicines benefited their progress toward their goal, or if they felt like they could choose 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's Message Contributes to Stigma

Big Pharma's message is 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.

You Have Options, Not a "Need" for Any Certain Treatment

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 choosing not to take the medicine Big Pharma's message pushes.

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. Big Pharma's message is one of powerlessness and desperation.

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 and is not will help. Let's keep the discussion going.

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

I blog here: Heal Now and Forever Be In Peace, share here: Twitter@JodiAman, Google+, inspire here: Facebook: Heal Now and Forever Be in Peace.

APA Reference
Lobozzo, J. (2012, October 10). Big Pharma's Message Encourages Mental Health Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

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November, 3 2012 at 8:07 pm

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.

Dr Musli Ferati
October, 22 2012 at 8:47 pm

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.

Laura Zera
October, 19 2012 at 7:20 pm

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 20 2012 at 12:23 pm

I thought you might appreciate it, Laura. I hope through your book, we really do something about this!

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October, 19 2012 at 9:10 am

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In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 15 2012 at 4:42 am

Thank you for the shout out Michelle! Great article!

October, 10 2012 at 5:11 pm

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?

Isaac Sarayiah
October, 10 2012 at 2:59 pm

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 - - 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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 10 2012 at 7:07 pm

I will take a look, thanks!

October, 10 2012 at 10:44 am

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 10 2012 at 7:05 pm

Maybe, I do see mild mental illness portrayed in movies too.

Jennine Murphy
October, 10 2012 at 7:24 am

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 10 2012 at 7:04 pm

That is great Jennine, I guess in some ways you are right, it doesn't induce fear like it used to. Thanks goodness for that!

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