If We Know There’s a Stigma, Why Is It Still Here?

When it comes to mental health, one of the things that is discussed a lot is stigma. The stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness comes up a lot in this space, and it’s something that can become impossible to ignore. But as much as people bring it up when we talk about mental health, the stigma continues to exist and cause harm to people who experience mental illness or other mental health challenges. So today I want to answer the question: if we know a stigma exists, why is it still here?

Before we go further, what is stigma? According to the Mayo Clinic,

Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are common.

The Mayo Clinic

So this means that not only is is that something is viewed in a negative life, but it’s also something that’s thought to be a disadvantage for someone. It’s clear that many people know that a stigma surrounding mental health/mental illness exists. At the same time, there are still so many people who are unwilling or unable to seek mental health treatment because of this same stigma. So what’s going on?

A few possible reasons exist. According to VeryWellMind, “Stigma has arisen out of fear and a lack of understanding. It has persisted even with greater knowledge about the biochemical and genetic natures of different conditions.” The American Psychiatric Association also points out that there’s more than one type of stigma, naming public stigma, self-stigma and institutional stigma as contributing factors to this larger issue.

So if we’re all so aware of the stigma, why does it exist? Because the stigma goes beyond what we think it does – it can (and does) pop up in every area of our day-to-day lives. In fact, it’s so much deeper than just being left out or ignoring mental health altogether.

This stigma is a misguided belief that there is something inherently wrong with experiencing mental illness, rather than treating it like the health condition it is. And that stigma gets in the way of people seeking treatment, resources and education, which then keeps the cycle moving until someone else needs treatment again.

The mental health stigma persists beyond awareness. It’s going to take action and education to help shrink this stigma, and knowing this opportunity could pop up at any moment. The more we look out for chances to break the cycle, the more we can work toward a world that doesn’t have such a harsh view of mental illness.

What is one thing that we can do to help shrink the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness? Let me know in the comments!

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