By: Gisela Serrano
The sad reality is that a stigma on mental illness still exists, although we’d like to think that it has been minimized significantly. There are several people with a voice, including celebrities, who advocate and speak on the importance of mental health; some even give light to their own mental health issues. However, stigma on mental health illnesses is still very much alive today and can prevent many people from seeking professional help, which can be beneficial to them. Ignorance and a lack of education also play a major role in preventing people from reaching out for the help they need. People who are uneducated may not be familiar with the options they have when seeking professional providers and thus limit themselves the access of qualified providers who have more clinical experience and expertise. For this reason, they consult professionals who may not necessarily specialize in the condition from which they are suffering from. People with low income may also not be able to afford high quality care. As a result of these factors, many people usually shy away from searching for help as they unfortunately feel shame and embarrassment.
Overall, many people fear that they would be the subject of criticism, lose friendships and relationships, and lose their jobs if they were to confide in someone about their mental health state. According to David B. Feldman Ph.D., in his post “The Tragedy of Mental Illness Stigma” on Psychology Today, “in half of U.S. states, admitting to a history of mental illness can lead to loss of a driver’s license, inability to serve on a jury or run for office, or even potentially loss of custody of a child.” It makes absolute sense why some people would be hesitant about speaking out or seeking the help they need. The bottom line here is: there is nothing wrong with accepting that you need help – whatever your situation or problem may be. Recognizing that you need help is the first healthy step you can take to achieving mental health and overall taking care of yourself. Stop waiting decades to search for help or receive care. Many mental health illnesses are treatable and for good reasons should not be put off. Talking to your friends and family is also an important step you should consider taking as it can provide you the strong moral support system you need. The sooner you learn to avoid and disregard mental illness stigma, the quicker you can be on the road to recovery.