Did you know that over half (60%) of Americans are concerned about the stigma around mental illness?
What is stigma?
Stigma is when someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgement from someone else. Stigma can even come from an internal place, confusing feeling bad with being bad.
One in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment.
What can you do?
Firstly, it helps to learn more about stigma and how it affects you. You can do so by taking the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) StigmaFree Quiz, then looking at the answers to learn about the effects of stigma and what you can do to help.
Second, if you’ve ever been affected by stigma because of a mental health condition, know that you’re not alone. As stated above, one in five Americans are affected with mental health conditions and six out of ten are also concerned about letting anyone know they are affected. Remember, having mental health issues is not wrong and it does not make you a bad person. Stigma is harmful because it can stop us from seeking the help we need but there is hope if you take the time to understand it so you can educate those around you about it. Just don’t let the learning and educating get in the way of getting help for yourself. Below is an infographic about how to address stigma:
What about being LGBTQ+?
LGBTQ+ individuals are almost three times more likely to experience a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. The rate is higher among the LGBTQ+ community because of discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community adds more stressors like racism and prejudice based on ethnicity and culture. Unfortunately, these divisions can come from those closest to us like family members, colleagues, faith leaders, community members, healthcare providers, and other institutions. With all these issues coming from different sides, it is absolutely crucial that stigma surrounding mental illness be removed.
Here are some things you can do thanks to Stop Stigma Sacramento:
- Embrace friends and family members who may be living with a mental health condition. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, but sometimes people do. Your peers or friends may encounter different forms of prejudice and discrimination than you do, and it is important to let them know you can be trusted. Sometimes all it takes is a hug, a call or a positive text.
- Learn the ways stigma can hurt individuals and families, the resources for help and the ways that different prejudices or backgrounds can further contribute to community- and internalized self-stigma. Understand what individuals and families living with mental health conditions are going through and how support can be provided.
- Reach out if someone you know is becoming more withdrawn, anxious or isolated. Encourage them to seek help, offer to accompany them to a counseling appointment or just invite them out for coffee. Stay in touch and find ways to provide encouragement, support, hope and help, knowing that they may be facing sources of stigma and prejudice that differ from your own.
- Look for opportunities to get involved. Use your voice, in person and online, to share your mental health journey and raise awareness about the effects of stigma. It’s not always easy to take a stand, but your courage can help remind and educate others that mental health challenges are real and common, and that LGBTQ communities continue to face persistent barriers to treatment.
Last but certainly not least, if you’re an LGBTQ+ Veteran who is experiencing mental health issues, know that you’re not alone either. In fact, the VA has made strides in reaching out to LGBTQ+ Veterans, letting them know that they are there to serve ALL Veterans. Below are some videos about opening up and here is a resource from Make the Connection about Coming Out to Your Provider.
Sources & Additional Reading (These will also be shared on the SITREP socials throughout the month.)
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Gay & Bisexual Men’s Health – Stigma & Discrimination
- Human Rights Campaign: Three Ways to Combat Mental Health Stigma in LGBTQ Communities
- Making The Connection: Sharing LGBTQ+ Identity with Providers
- Mayo Clinic – Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- American Psychiatric Association: Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness
- Stop Stigma Sacramento: Our Community – LGBTQ