Mental health treatment
is critical to stemming what is by all accounts an epidemic in the US today. Statistics reported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) show that one out of every four American adults are living with a mental illness. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control shows that as many as 20% of children are also suffering from a mental health disorder. However, only a small number will every seek treatment. In large part, the stigma surrounding mental health help is responsible for the difficulties people face in seeking treatment. Today, we’re breaking down 10 common misconceptions about mental health treatment and what we can do to break the stigmas. By educating people about mental illness, we hope that more people will receive the care they need.
Untruths & Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Treatment
- People who seek mental health help are crazy.Absolutely not. Mental illness occurs for neurological and biological reasons. It is a medical condition, not a shortcoming. Words like ‘crazy,’ and ‘psycho’ are inapplicable and harmful – they only lead to feelings of shame that may prevent someone from seeking help.
- People with a mental illness are dangerous.False. Research indicates that only a very small percentage of violent crimes, including gun crime, are committed by people with a mental illness.
- Mental illness treatment should be kept a secret.In the past, mental illness was often treated as a ‘family secret,’ and was not discussed openly. When we avoid talking about mental illness, we contribute to the stigma. Individuals are not required to discuss their mental illness, nor should they be kept quiet.
- Mental illness indicates weakness.In particular, men tend to avoid seeking mental health treatment because they fear being seen as weak. In reality, being honest and asking for help is a sign of strength.
- Mental illness is a character flaw.Some think mental illness is a self-fulfilling prophecy, that an individual has ‘caused’ it in some way. This is not true, as the onset of mental illness is out of a person’s control.
- Mental health treatment is ineffective.People may avoid mental health treatment because they don’t believe it can help. In fact, many mental illnesses are highly treatable and getting help can lead to a healthier, happier life.
- Mental health professionals are untrustworthy.Some people do not trust doctors, especially those in the mental health field. The symptoms of mental illnesses can be difficult to diagnose and define, and the right doctors will do all they can to develop an appropriate, specialized treatment program for their clients.
- Seeking mental health treatment can hurt my chances of finding a job.In reality, living with an untreated mental illness can be much more damaging to your work life. Your behavior may be erratic and unreliable, which typically does not appeal to employers. In most fields you are under no requirement to report mental health treatment to a prospective employer.
- Mental health treatment is too expensive.Unfortunately, mental health treatment can be costly. However, we are working to make it more accessible by linking low-cost, quality treatment providers with the people who need them. Treatment can be possible, regardless of your income.
- Mental health treatment facilities aren’t culturally sensitive.People from different cultural backgrounds may hold different beliefs when it comes to modern medicine. Unfortunately, not all treatment programs are culturally sensitive, but with education, that is changing. Destination Hope prides itself on focusing on the cultural needs of our clients alongside their medical requirements.
What Is Being Done to Break the Stigma?
Depictions in the media of Americans with mental illness include that they are dangerous, unpredictable, incapable of functioning in society and that they are responsible for their illness when the opposites of all of these are true³. Fortunately, advocacy for those with mental illness is starting to turn the tides, raising awareness and acceptance.
Celebrities Who Struggle with Mental Illness
Many celebrities have gone public with their struggles with mental illness as a means to help others know they aren't alone when it comes to mental illness. A number of the world's most famous and talented people have struggled with a variety of mental illnesses.
In addition to increasing awareness about others who experience mental illness, the United States government and policymakers have launched several key items of legislation to increase ease of access to mental health services and reduce discriminatory practices toward those who experience mental illness. Examples include the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Mental Health Parity Act and the Affordable Care Act ³.
In addition to these protections, funding for mental illness research and care reached all-time highs recent years. A 2016 budget bill featured some of the largest increases to organizations such as the National Institute on Mental Illness and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, both of which provide a significant level of services for those struggling with addiction and mental illness4
The Dangers of Maintaining Social Stigmas
The stigma of mental illness can be harmful to the health of Americans because it causes individuals to refrain from seeking needed medical treatment ³. This can be for many reasons, including fear that others will think less of a person for undergoing mental treatment or taking medications to reduce mental illness symptoms.
Through legislation and showing that strong, healthy and highly functional people can also struggle with mental illness, progression toward removing the stigma associated with mental illness is possible.
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