Mental Health problems affect almost every family in America. The stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness can stop people from getting education, homes, jobs—and treatment! Actions and attitudes of family, friends, classmates and co-workers make a big difference in a person’s recovery.
It’s easy to label someone else and overlook what’s really inside. When mental illnesses are used as labels – depressed, schizophrenic, manic or hyperactive – these labels hurt. Using negative labels leads to branding and shame – what is called stigma. Stigma leads to discrimination. Everyone knows why it is wrong to discriminate against people because of their race, religion, culture or appearance. They are less aware of how people with mental illnesses are discriminated against. Although discrimination may not always be obvious, it exists – and it hurts. Stigma is not just the use of the wrong word or action.
Stigma is about disrespect. It is the use of negative labels to identify a person living with mental illness. Stigma is a barrier and discourages individuals and their families from getting the help they need due to the fear of discrimination. An estimated 50 million Americans experience a mental disorder in any given year and only one-fourth of them actually receive mental health and other services.
Words Can Be Poison. Avoid labeling people by their diagnosis. Instead of saying, “She’s a schizophrenic,” say, “She has a mental illness.” Never use the term “mentally ill.”
Stigma discourages people from getting help. One in four adults and one in five children experience a mental health problem. Early and appropriate services can be the best way to prevent illness from getting worse.
Stigma keeps people from getting good jobs and advancing in the workplace.
Stigma leads to fear, mistrust, and violence. The vast majority of people who have mental illnesses are no more violent than anyone else, regardless of what you see on TV.
Stigma results in inadequate insurance coverage.
Words Can Heal.
Obey the laws in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mental illnesses are a disability covered under the ADA.
Insist on accountable media. Refuse to promote the stereotyping.
Recognize and appreciate the contributions to society made by people who have mental illnesses.
Treat people with the dignity and respect we all deserve.
Learn More. More information about mental illness and local, state, and national resources can be found online at http://oneidacountypublichealth.org/. Click on Family Health, then Mental Health.
Contact the Mental Health Interagency Council (Oneida, Vilas, & Forest Counties) at 715-369-6118 to learn how you can be a part of ending the stigma of mental illness.
Information provided by: SAMHSA, 1-800-487-4890, www.samhsa.gov