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The history of treating mental health is a rather sordid and disturbing one. For example, less than 100 years ago, it was considered reasonable to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) with electric shock therapy or even lobotomy. In other problematic and upsetting instances, people struggling with issues of mental health were often misdiagnosed and categorized as having a “mental illness” and were often unjustly institutionalized. 

The good news is that these alarming and unsettling treatments have long disappeared since a much better understanding of mental health emerged. Unfortunately, some misconceptions and stigmas still exist around the subject of mental health.

This holdover of mental health misconceptions is not only disruptive to the advancement of scientific and social understanding, but it is also detrimental to those currently struggling with issues of mental health. This is why it is imperative to detect and better understand these misconceptions so that people will no longer fear discussing their mental health issues and thus get the proper care that they may need.

Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

The issues surrounding stigma and mental health go far beyond simply a few ignorant people making uninformed decisions and determinations. These issues have real-world consequences, especially for those that are directly affected by issues of mental health.

According to the journal Administration and Policy in Mental Health, “[mental health] stigma is associated with lack of engagement in mental health care and worse treatment outcomes. Public stigma also results in discrimination, reduced autonomy and self-efficacy, and segregation,” and “individuals with mental illness are more likely to experience housing and employment discrimination and homelessness compared to people without mental illness.” As we can see, the consequences can be drastic and long-lasting.

Common Misconceptions and Stigmas Surrounding Mental Health

So what exactly are some of these stigmas that surround mental health? Well, the journal of World Psychiatry does a good job of breaking down just a few. They describe two types of stigma in the mental health arena:

  1. Public stigma
  2. Self-stigma

#1. Public Stigma

According to the journal, some examples of public stigma are:

  • Stereotyping those with mental health issues as “dangerous, incompetent, or weak of character.”
  • Showing prejudice and negative beliefs or behaviors toward those with mental health issues
  • Exhibiting discriminatory behaviors, such as voiding certain people or populations, withholding assistance, and refusing housing or employment

#2. Self-Stigma

These public stigmas also spill over into self-stigma in markedly similar ways. According to World Psychiatry, these stigmas:

  • Create negative stereotypes about the self, such as worthless, reckless, or incompetent
  • Show prejudice against the self and exhibit low self-esteem and expectations
  • Discriminate against oneself by failing to attempt opportunities out of fear that they will not be taken seriously

Common Misconceptions Surrounding Recovery

Unfortunately, these misconceptions about mental health also spill over into mental health recovery. Many times people can look at recovery as a way of escaping their responsibilities. This is a fallacy because issues of mental health are generally out of an individual’s control.

There is also a self-stigma surrounding recovery because there can be a feeling that starting recovery is an “admittance” that there is a deeper problem going on. Admitting there is a problem can make an individual feel like they have failed or are “broken” in some way.

The important thing to remember is that people with mental health issues are not bad, weak, or damaged people; they are simply sick people that need help to get well.

The Life-Changing Benefits of Recovery

A good way to think of the idiocracy of stigmas toward mental health is to reframe it as a medical condition that is not stigmatized. Consider cancer, for instance. If someone has cancer, it would be unthinkable to publicly stigmatize that person for having the disease, not to mention getting help for it.

This is what happens with mental health all of the time. Now, let us reframe self-stigma and mental health. Let us take a broken arm, for instance. It would be absurd to judge yourself negatively for having a broken arm. However, people judge themselves, think less of themselves, and fear ridicule from others for seeking mental health recovery all of the time. These stigmas and misconceptions need to stop.

As mentioned earlier, the perception, discussion, and treatment surrounding mental health issues have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. However, the misconceptions that remain are still hindering many from getting the help they desperately need and deserve. It is critical to reduce and hopefully eradicate these misconceptions and stigmas sooner than later. Otherwise, future generations may be viewing us in the same way we viewed the handling of mental health 100 years ago. 

The only way these misconceptions can be combatted is by better informing the public and making them aware of the detrimental real-world consequences that these behaviors can cause. Stigma is setting the mental health industry back and hurting those that desperately need help, but it doesn’t have to. If you are struggling with your mental health, reach out for help today. Call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185 for more information.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT