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Stigma of Mental Health

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem every year - that means that, right now, one of your friends, colleagues or loved ones is going through it.But too many people with mental health problems are made to feel worthless or isolated. The way you act towards someone with a mental illness can change their life: by opening up to mental health you can make a real difference. Mental health is as genuine as any other aspect of a person’s health. When an individual is experiencing thought or behavior patterns that negatively impact their quality of life, it is appropriate to address them, just as any other health concern should be addressed. People with mental illnesses are able to recover, but usually only when the problem is confronted and dealt with directly.Concern over being stigmatized may be a leading reason why people do not seek out help for issues of mental health. If that is the case, as it indeed seems to be, then perhaps it is time to ask ourselves "why?" After all, some mental health problems are physiological and some are cognitively rooted, but all benefit from treatment.Depression is the most common mental health disorder and instances of it are rising across the globe. Driven by a lack of confidence in psychiatric remedies, most people prefer to trust the self-healing ability of the human body.Types of problemsAnxietyAnxiety disorders happen when someone has feelings of anxiety that are very strong or last for a long time.BipolarBipolar disorder is characterised by the experience of swings between low mood and high, manic mood, usually with more normal phases in between.DepressionDepression is characterised by the persistence of feelings of sadness or misery.Eating disordersEating disorders can occur when someone has a relationship with food that they find difficult.Obsessive-compulsive disorderObsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder where unwanted thoughts, urges and repetitive activities become an obstacle to living life as someone wants to..Personality disordersSomeone might have a personality disorder if their personality traits cause regular, long-term problems in the way they cope with life..SchizophreniaSchizophrenia is a mental illness that occurs when the parts of the brain that are responsible for emotion and sensation stop working properly.How we think and actIt's too easy to dismiss mental health problems as something that happen to other people. But it can happen to any of us, and the way we all think and act makes a real difference. Too many people can be left in situations where they feel isolated, ashamed and worthless. Without our support, they can lose what they care about most: their family and friends, their job, their home, their energy for life. When you're going through a mental health problem, you need your friends, loved ones and colleagues more than ever. You can be the difference.Public stigma over help-seekingThe public stigma attached to having a mental illness is not the only type of stigma that inhibits the decision to seek therapy. There is also a public stigma associated with seeking professional services, separate from the public stigma associated with mental illness. With this stigma, what one suffers from is less important than the simple behaviour of seeking psychological help, whether that is for a chronic, diagnosable mental disorder or for processing the death of a loved one. Simply seeking professional psychological help appears to carry its own mark of disgrace. Research indicates that people tend to stigmatise clients more than they stigmatise non-clients.In scenario-based research, individuals described as depressed and having sought help were rated more emotionally unstable, less interesting, and less confident than those described as depressed and not seeking help. In addition, those who have sought help are more likely to report being stigmatised by others than those who have not.Self-stigmaThese are compelling findings. Public stigma regarding mental illness and seeking profession help has a significant impact on those who suffer from problems that could be treated. However, there is a growing awareness of a potent stigma that might be more directly related to negative experiences with mental illness and help-seeking.In contrast to the outward, other-oriented focus of public stigma, self-stigma has been described as an internal form of stigma, wherein one labels oneself as unacceptable because of having a mental health concern. We originally conceived of self-stigma as the specific threat to one’s sense of self, including esteem, regard and confidence, that seeking psychological help might pose. We hypothesised that the more a person saw psychological help as a threat to their sense of worth, confidence or self-regard, the less likely they would be to seek out that help.The distinction between the public and self-stigma associated with seeking professional help allows for a more nuanced assessment of what people feel about their own psychological concerns and their treatment. Although perception of public stigma is likely to be related to self-stigma for many individuals, this does not have to be the case for everyone. Individuals might perceive the possibility of public stigma for seeking help (perhaps accurately), and yet have little or no internalisation of that stigma. For example, people might have less self-stigma due to previous experiences with therapy or knowing someone who benefited from therapy. Thus, they might perceive a general public stigma toward help-seeking, but know from personal experience that seeking help is beneficial and have less concern about it personally.