Stigma about Mental Illness causes People to Put Off Seeking Diagnosis and Treatment

“What is Stigma?
· An attempt to label a particular group of people as less worthy of respect than others
· A mark of shame, disgrace or disapproval that results in discrimination
· Not just a matter of using the wrong word or action – its about disrespect”

                                                                                                      NAMI multicultural action center web site

People with mental health issues sometimes choose to put off seeking much needed treatment, due to stigma in our culture. Once they are diagnosed with a mental illness, people have to live with the problems that go along with being officially diagnosed with a mental illness.

There are potential consequences in regards to employment, insurance and education. This is not to mention the discrimination in social contexts as well.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.  According to the Department of Labor web site, the Disabilities Act protects disabled persons in the following ways…

“prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. “

Interestingly, when I went to the Disability.gov web site and typed in Mental health, there was no information on the entire web site. It just gave me a list of links to non-government web sites like Mental Health America and National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The same thing happened when I typed in Mental Illness.  Just a list of links to non-profit organizations not affiliated with the government.

The disabilities act may protect people with physical disabilities, but it seems to  provide little  to protect people with mental illnesses like depression, PTSD, severe anxiety disorders,  OCD, and  bipolar disorder.

People that have been diagnosed with mental illnesses are discriminated against on a regular  basis. They are discriminated against in the workplace and when seeking employment.

The employers will get around it by fabricating reasons not to hire someone. They cannot fire someone for having a disability  but they can make up another reason.

The common perception of the public, about people with bipolar disorder is that they are unpredictable and possibly dangerous. Often times when you hear on the news about a person committing a random crime like a robbery, you will hear the news casters attributing the criminals actions to having bipolar disorder.

Of course there are people with bipolar disorder that commit crimes. There are people without bipolar disorder that commit crimes too. But if the news people find out that an offender does happen to have bipolar then they will make a big deal about how the person’s antisocial behavior must have been the fault of their bipolar disorder.

Guess what? Often times when someone commits a violent crime, they have antisocial personality disorder or some other mental illness. Whether or not the person had bipolar disorder probably had nothing to do with their committing a violent crime.

They may have been someone that was misdiagnosed with bipolar. Many sociopaths can convince a mental health professional that they have a different mental illness. They are actors and can manipulate the system.

The person may also have a co-morbid conditions of bipolar and anti-social personality disorder. It would be the anti-social traits that would lead the person to commit a crime, rather than the bipolar.

But it is so often misconstrued by the mental health professional and the news media that the general public has the impression that people with bipolar disorder are prone to crime and outbursts of anger and violence.

Violent crimes and breaking laws are not traits of bipolar disorder, but now you can see why some people put off treatment due to the stigma about bipolar disorder.

People with clinical depression and bipolar disorder are discriminated against for life insurance because they are perceived as a suicide risk. The funny thing is that life insurance does not ever cover suicide anyway!

People with diagnosis for anxiety disorders, bipolar and depression are sometimes discriminated against by colleges. If the college finds out that you have a diagnosis with a mental illness they do not want to risk their precious reputation on you. You might do something to “embarrass them”

They also do not have confidence that you will be able to handle the course load. I know people with mental illnesses that attend college and work harder than many other students. They know what disabilities they have and they work hard to succeed in spite of their condition.

Mental illness is stigmatized in the media and in the movies. When friends find out that someone has mental illness they sometimes assume it is like what they see on tv.

They are afraid of being embarrassed  and are afraid the person may suddenly do something unstable, They may perceive their friend differently even to the point of being afraid of them. This is all due to stigma.

People are all individuals. People with mental illness are also individuals.

No two people with bipolar disorder are the same. They are unique individuals that you have to get to know to find out what they are like.

Nevertheless, a diagnosis of a mental illness can cause discrimination and a loss of opportunities.

It can cause problems socially and with our career. Once people find out you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder, they see you differently, even though you are the same person you were before the diagnosis.

The fear of the stigma keeps many people from seeking the help they need. It is understandable that people feel afraid.

The fact is that 1 in 5 people has a mental illness of some kind.

Thirty-one percent of adults surveyed say they would not seek treatment because they fear what others may think.  NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

According to this Fact Sheet from NAMI

Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.2

 Approximately 1.1 percent of American adults— about 2.4 million people—live with schizophrenia. 3,4

 Approximately 2.6 percent of American adults−6.1 million people−live with bipolar disorder. 4,5

 Approximately 6.7 percent of American adults−about 14.8 million people−live with major depression.4,6

 Approximately 18.1 percent of American adults−about 42 million people−live with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder and phobias.4,7

THE FAILURE TO SEEK  HELP FOR A MENTAL ILLNESS CAN LEAD TO DETERIORATION OF QUALITY OF LIFE AND IN SOME CASES SUICIDE.

Stigma about mental illness is a huge problem in America. As long as it is not dealt with,  people will continue to suffer.  Many of these people would be an asset to employers, schools and friends, if given the opportunity.

As a result of the continued stigma, people with mental illness often have a lower quality of life and a lower income potential than they should have.

There needs to be more awareness of this important issue. It is unfair discrimination in an age where almost everyone else is protected by discrimination laws.

NAMI is a grassroots organization that helps people and the families of people with mental illness. This is not a government organization. For more information about NAMI you can read this.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Danielle!
    Jul 29, 2015 @ 04:15:25

    I hope others will see this post, and know that they are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. 61chrissterry
    Jul 29, 2015 @ 13:51:45

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry and commented:
    There should be no stigma, so that all can seek diagnosis and treatment , to not only enhance their own life but to also enhance the lives of those near to them.

    Like

    Reply

  3. Trackback: “Mental ‘illnesses’ have no validity” | All Things Chronic
  4. robertmgoldstein
    Jul 31, 2015 @ 23:54:20

    We won’t get rid of the stigma until we demand that the mental health profession exorcise it from it’s ranks. Delayed access to timely treatment is especially destructive. A moment of insight happens, a person calls for an appointment and is told he has to wait five weeks…then when he does get an appointment he is quickly diagnosed with something and offered a prescription. No follow, no contact with family…none of the supports one would get with a diagnosis of cancer, or advanced kidney disease (and I’m not implying that either of these is without its own stigma). If the professionals we need in order to heal are loathe to treat us, where are we?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • gentlekindness
      Aug 01, 2015 @ 05:53:50

      Yes I have heard it so many times that people are having to wait for weeks or months. Then I hear about people who are arrested in hand cuffs when someone reports them to be suicidal ..as if they were trying to murder another person. I don’t understand it. Don’t they get it that they are traumatizing already traumatized people who are not a danger to anyone else?
      The the stories I have read about what goes on in the mental health facilities is terrible.
      Personally I had to take a young family member to the ER once for suicidal thoughts and the treatment was inexcusable. They made me wait with a 10 year old child for 10 hours. By the time they did a psych eval it was 4 am .
      How can they evaluate a child’s mental state in 15 minutes, at 4 am in the morning, after they have been waiting in the ER for 10 hours ? I took her there around 6pm the day before and she was exhausted from not sleeping by 4am.

      Like

      Reply

  5. Tessa
    Aug 01, 2015 @ 01:17:03

    Reblogged this on Advocate for Invisible Illness! and commented:
    Stop the stigma of mental illness. Please seek help!

    Like

    Reply

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