How Does Stigma Affect Mental Health Treatment?
In recent years, there has been a transformation in the public discourse surrounding therapy. Once a secret shame or punchline, counseling is now increasingly accepted as a vital tool in maintaining mental health and overcoming periods of emotional adversity. Still, even as attitudes change, stigma surrounding seeking mental health care keeps far too many people from getting the treatment they need.
Even as the prevalence of mental health issues increases, up to 75 percent of Americans and Europeans don’t pursue help, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine. Researchers at King’s College London stated that their findings showed “clear evidence” of the “toxic effect” of stigma, which keeps people suffering unnecessarily.
What is Mental Health Stigma?
A stigma is a negative social attitude or unfair judgment placed on a person or group based on a difference or perceived failure. Stigmas are widespread in society, relating to certain lifestyle choices, cultural practices, or health conditions.
In regard to mental health, common stigmas suggest that those dealing with mental illness are “weak” and simply need to “toughen up,” or alternatively are “crazy” or other harmful terms. These characterizations are destructive, misinformed, and untrue, and no one should feel that these pejoratives describe them and their circumstances.
Living in a society that shares such messages about seeking treatment for mental issues can cause self-stigma. This occurs when those struggling with mental illness internalize negative attitudes put forth by the media and others about their own condition. A review of studies in Psychiatry Research found that self-stigma can have a number of deleterious effects, such as:
Most people who hold negative attitudes about treatment simply lack information about mental health. Research shows that information is the most useful weapon in combating treatment stigma. Individuals sharing their stories, as well as media campaigns, change perception of mental illness by helping people to better understand signs of struggle and sharing resources for help.
On a personal level, for those dealing with mental health issues, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Considering that the CDC reports that over 50 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their life, struggling with mental health is an extremely common occurrence.
Like physical health, our mental health requires some upkeep and the pursuit of good mental health is a normal one. Defeat stigmas surrounding mental health treatment by starting with yourself, either by encouraging your loved ones to get the help they need, or by taking the first step for your own health. Counseling is a powerful tool in the journey for wellness and personal growth, and we are here to help.
How Does Addiction Affect Families?
Substance abuse issues often are perceived as a private, personal battle, but the truth is that addiction is a family disease. As the user’s struggles begin to impede their ability to live and function normally, partners, children, parents, and other loved ones quickly find their lives altered. Watching family grapple with substance use causes emotional turmoil, and medical, financial, or legal consequences can mount as the effects of the disorder ripple into other parts of life. Regardless of who is struggling, all relationships in a family react and respond to the toll of substance abuse.
Spouses and romantic partners often bear the brunt of substance abuse disorders in a family. Behavioral changes that can arise as a result of addiction such as irritability, sudden mood swings, or emotional withdrawal can strain a relationship. In instances where substance use has begun to affect relationships with children, parents, or in the workplace, the spouse may find themselves making excuses or covering for their partner more and more. This shift risks them developing into an enabler, or the relationship lapsing into a codependent one.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 25% of American children grow up in homes where substance abuse is present. Children who grow up in such environments are more likely to get addicted to drugs or alcohol themselves, and use substances earlier than peers who do witness substance abuse in the home. They are also 69% more likely to be depressed as adults than children with non-addicted parents, and are also more prone to anxiety as adults. Children exposed to substance use can be neglected or placed in unsafe situations which, if escalated to extremes, can lead to removal from the home and living with other family members or placement in foster care.
Like partners of users, parents may fall into a codependent relationship with their children who struggle from substance abuse as they try to protect them from the consequences of their disorder. They may also feel a responsibility or sense of shame when it comes to their child’s issues. For parents of adult users with children, this can cause an added emotional, mental, and financial strain as they worry for the wellbeing of their grandchildren or become their primary caregivers.
Addiction can harm a family, but luckily, there is help available. Individual treatment options and family therapy can rescue a user from the throes of addiction and set a family on the path to healing. If you or a loved one are in need of help, New Era Rehabilitation Center provides a comprehensive, community-focused recovery plan. We know that recovery takes a village and are glad to be of service. Reach out today to start the journey.