The week of October 3-9 has been designated as Mental Illness Awareness Week. The theme of the week for 2021 is “Together in Mental Health.” Sunday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day. All of these activities are part of October’s designation as National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, a time for closely examining mental health issues and reducing social stigma around mental illness.
World Mental Health Day
On Sunday, October 10, the world recognizes Mental Health Day, with this year’s theme of “Mental Health in an Unequal World.” The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the need to make mental health care for all a reality. Sometimes the obstacle to getting appropriate treatment for a mental illness is the social stigma of the illness itself.
Mental Illness – Common Health Condition
Over half of the adults in the US will need mental health treatment at some point in their lives, as mental illness is among the most common health conditions in this country. About 1 in 25 adults are currently living with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, major depression, an eating disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Just over 11% of adults in the US reported in a recent survey that they regularly feel some form of anxiety, worry, or nervousness. Almost 5% said they frequently experience sadness or the symptoms of depression.
A separate survey found that most people in this country believe that those living with mental illness should be able to live normal lives with those who can help them in recovery. Survey participants said they do not support the idea of keeping people out of society just because they have a mental health condition. In addition, respondents indicated they do not believe those living with a mental illness are prone to violence or are excessively dangerous.
However, about half of the survey participants said they would not welcome a mental health facility in their neighborhood. Two-thirds of the respondents believed there is still much stigma attached to mental health issues.
What is Stigma?
Essentially, a stigma is a negative and unfounded social attitude toward a person or group of people, often involving shaming them for a perceived deficiency. Stigma is often applied to individuals who have certain cultural beliefs or make particular lifestyle choices. Stigma is also very often attached to individuals living with mental illness.
Social stigma typically originates in fear or a lack of understanding. Misleading or inaccurate representations by the media or on social media contribute to these factors. There are several different types of stigma, including:
- Public stigma, which involves the discriminatory attitudes people have about mental illness
- Institutional stigma, which is systemic and involves government or private organizational policies limiting opportunities for people with mental illness.
- Self-stigma, the internalized shame and negative attitudes that people with mental health conditions have about their own illness.
Stigma affects the individuals themselves as well as their close friends and family members who care about them and try to support them through their illness.
Steps to Reducing Social Stigma
Education and a better understanding of mental illness is one of the key steps toward reducing stigma and ensuring that treatment is available for all who need it.
For example, one of the more common misconceptions about mental health issues is that someone who suffers from a mental illness must be dangerous or violent. In fact, a very small minority of individuals with mental illness commit violent acts. People with mental health conditions are actually more likely to be victims of a crime as they are generally more vulnerable.
Other steps toward reducing the stigma around mental illness include:
- Talking openly about mental health. World Health Day on October 10 is a good time to start the conversation.
- Being more conscious of language, such as calling someone “crazy.”
- Showing compassion for individuals who suffer from mental illness.
- Being honest about participating in treatment.
- Not harboring self-stigma. Mental illness is common, and treatment can help. There is no reason to be ashamed or to hide the condition from anyone.
Mental Health and Addiction Help in Tennessee
If you are experiencing a mental health issue, we can help. At our residential, long-term and outpatient treatment centers, Cumberland Heights provides top-notch mental health care to those dealing with mental illnesses, especially those co-occurring with substance use disorders. Our dedicated staff members will walk with you every step of the way on your journey to recovery, helping you to rewrite your story.
At Cumberland Heights, we’ve been changing lives since 1966. To learn more about our services, contact the Cumberland Heights admissions team.