This week, I want to talk about an issue that means a lot to me: the stigma that colors our ideas about mental illness.
When you hear the term “mental illness,” what kind of images come to mind? For me it’s hard to resist the scenarios of movies and television: a Hannibal Lecter-style sociopath lurking among the shadows, a destructive child with multiple personalities, institutionalized patients languishing in white padded cells, or someone haunted by frightening hallucinations.
But as a counselor, I’m quick to give myself a reality check. In my experience and according to research, people with mental disorders are rarely violent or destructive. More commonly, their pain is hidden so that they look and act much like you and me. Actually, they ARE you and me! Thankfully, most disorders are manageable with medication and/or counseling support.
Yet rather than treat these conditions with compassion and understanding, our culture clings to stereotypical, stigmatized perceptions of mental illness. As a result, people with mental health problems are afraid to admit that they need help. This week’s article confronts this tendency to shun people with mental illness:
“Stigma and Mental Illness”
Fear of stigma (negative stereotypes, labeling, and rejection) causes the majority of people with mental disorders to suffer in silence. By educating ourselves and others, we can fight this stigma and restore hope and dignity to people suffering from mental illness.
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Erin Kelley-Soderholm, M.Ed., NCC
Mental Health Editor
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