There’s a virus spreading across America. It harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence. It prevents them from seeking help. And in some cases, it takes lives. What virus are we talking about? It’s stigma. Stigma against people with mental health conditions. But there’s good news. Stigma is 100% curable. Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote. Your voice can spread the cure. Join NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Together we can #CureStigma.
The above writing is the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) Cure Stigma campaign manifesto; the content of which couldn’t be any closer to the truth. The impact of stigma is pernicious; NAMI rightly implies that it promotes shame, fear, and silence. The result: fewer people seeking treatment for mental health conditions that are treatable.
Even though society has come a long way concerning acknowledging mental illness for what it is, a group of health conditions that deserve to be viewed the same way one would look at, say, diabetes; the fact is that we still have much further to go toward effecting change. Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH, show that only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. If you consider for a moment that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5%) experiences mental illness in a given year, then you will see that the number of untreated mental health disorders is staggering.
Encouraging Americans to cast aside stereotypes and show compassion to men and women battling mental illness is difficult to accomplish. Many people’s beliefs and – in many cases – misconceptions about diseases of the mind are firmly rooted. The best method of changing people’s opinion is through education. During Mental Illness Awareness Week or MIAW, we can all use the internet as a weapon against stigma by educating people; when individuals have the facts, they are more likely to be compassionate, empathetic, and understanding.
Mental Illness Awareness Week 2018
NAMI offers many resources to help spread the word about the prevalence of mental health conditions in America. The organization created graphics that you can share on your social media accounts to get your social network thinking about the terrible cost that comes with stigmatization. Put simply, when men and women go without treatment, they are at significant risk of harm.
Individuals who feel they must keep their illness closely guarded often turn to mind-altering substances to “ease” their symptoms. Self-medication worsens one’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, et al.; self-medicating puts people at risk of dependence and developing a use disorder and co-occurring mental illness. For such people, successful treatment outcomes hinge on addressing both the conditions simultaneously.
It’s possible that some Americans are unaware that they are infected by stigma; they may not know that the things they say and the way the act toward those living with mental illness is keeping them from seeking help. NAMI created a short quiz that can help identify the presence of stigma; please follow the link to learn more.
The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.
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