New York Therapist: Let’s Get Rid Of The Stigma Attached To Mental Illness

Nov 02, 2023
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New York Therapist: Let’s Get Rid Of The Stigma Attached To Mental Illness

One of the greatest absurdities in the medical realm is the difference between the way physical and mental illnesses are perceived. 

When we are physically sick, we go to the doctor, get the prescribed treatment and, hopefully, get better. Nobody bats an eyelid or shows consternation because you have the flu, or kidney stones, or whatever sickness that makes you unwell.

But mental ailments are not always viewed with as much acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. It is a sad fact that even at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, mental illness remains a taboo subject in many parts of the world.

This is not a new phenomenon by any means, but as May is the Mental Health Month https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month, it is a good time to revisit the subject of mental illness and why it is still so widely misunderstood and stigmatized.

Obviously, this reaction is totally illogical, because it is based on false and stereotyped views that some in our society have and propagate. For instance, many people believe that mentally ill are “crazy,” “abnormal,” or even violent and uncontrollable. 

It is bad enough that some people have these biased views, which they hold as truths. But what’s even worse is that those who suffer from depression or any other kind of emotional distress are reluctant to seek help for the fear of being ostracized.

And, in some cases, they actually feel ashamed to admit their anguish.

One of the reasons this may be the case is that causes of mental disorders are not fully understood. Several factors can lead to psychological suffering, including genetics, social context, traumatic experiences, and severe existential crises, among others.

Nobody is immune to mental distress and anyone, even those who believe themselves to be emotionally strong and resilient, can suffer from depression or anxiety, at one time or another.

This is to say that mental strength does not protect anyone from mental illness.

 According to the World Health Organization, approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental illness. 

In the United States, nearly one in five adults live with psychological distress.  

But the real numbers are likely higher because many cases go unreported, precisely because of the fear of being treated as social pariahs.

Obviously, the first step to de-stigmatizing mental illness is education and information. But this step will be effective only if people are open-minded and willing to change their prejudices.

And this learning curve includes those who suffer from mental illness themselves but are afraid to step out of the shadow. The message they should take to heart is this: help is available and there is no shame in seeking it.