From Our Team
Avoiding the Mental Illness Stigma
We talk about mental health and physical health as if they were two different parts of the human body. The truth is physical health is interconnected and cannot be separated from the body’s mental health. When we have a cold or cut, we tend to seek advice from family, friends, or healthcare providers. Unfortunately, mental illness is not as willingly discussed. Stigma, or the perception that having mental illness is socially unacceptable, is one major reason people avoid talking about mental illness. The burden of mental illness in the United States is among the highest of all diseases. By 2020, behavioral health conditions will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide. Youth and adults with untreated mental illness are at high risk for many unhealthy and unsafe behaviors, including alcohol or drug abuse, violent or self-destructive behavior. Children are not immune to mental illness. Approximately 9 million children in the United States have serious emotional problems at any given time. Yet, only 1 in 5 of these children receives appropriate treatment. El Paso and the surrounding communities are challenged when it comes to the availability of mental health service providers. The good news is that we are learning about successful treatment options more than ever before. Integrated approaches are developing where individuals and families work with peers, healthcare providers and mental health specialists to identify the best recovery course. As a community, we need to overcome stigma associated with mental illness so that families can seek out the best care solutions for their loved ones. One important first step is to dispel the myths surrounding mental illness and replace them with facts. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], some examples of common myths include:
Myth: Mental illnesses cannot affect me. Fact: Mental illnesses are surprisingly common; they affect almost every family in America. Mental illnesses do not discriminate-they can affect anyone.
Myth: People with mental illnesses are violent and unpredictable. Fact: The vast majority of people who have mental health needs are no more violent than anyone else. Most people probably know someone with a mental illness and don’t even realize it. Myth: Once people develop mental illnesses, they will never recover. Fact: Studies show that most people with mental illnesses get better, and many recover completely. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities.
Myth: Children do not experience mental illnesses. Their actions are just products of bad parenting. Fact: A report from the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health shows that in any given year 5 to 9 percent of children experience serious emotional disturbances. Research shows that the best way to confront mental illness is through social acceptance. Unfortunately those who are misinformed tend to respond negatively when confronted with a friend or relative’s mental illness. Let’s work to remove the barrier of mental illness stigma. Take time to get the facts then reach out and educate your friends, family and co-workers. To learn more about ways to reduce stigma associated with mental illness:
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