Confronting Mental Illness Stigma
I’m not crazy! There’s nothing wrong with me. You’re the one with the problem, not me. Although the stigma of mental illness has decreased over the years, it is still present today. As a result, people with mental illness may try to minimize their symptoms or how their symptoms have been negatively impacting their lives.
So, where does this stigma come from in society? In reality, stigma is more so grounded in misconceptions of mental illness just simply due to a lack of understanding. For this reason, more effort has started to be put forth through public announcements and even advertisements for psychiatric medication by the professional community so to educate the public on mental illness. The more conversations that we start to have about mental illness, the less ambiguous the subject becomes and the decrease of the stigma.
What is mental illness? Although each mental disorder has a different symptom presentation, there are some commonalities. The most prevalent factor of mental illness involves how that person’s symptoms have been impacting their functionality in terms of their lifestyle factors. When a person begins to experience problems at work, school or in their relationships, this is a flag to alert the individual that something is not working in their lives and that they may need help. Therapy can help a person learn how to identify these early ‘alert’ issues so to aid them in better managing their symptoms.
An important point of consideration is how mental illness has started to be reconceptualized within the professional community. Mental illness is now seen on a spectrum rather than as dichotomous. Formerly, mental illness was conceptualized in a finite manner; where a person either had active symptoms or was in remission of their symptoms. But there is more gray to mental illness, which is the root of this spectrum concept. For example, many people may experience anxiety and depression, but that does not necessarily mean that they meet a diagnosis. A person is only diagnosed with a mental illness after a certain level of severity in terms of their lack of functionality is met. Thusly, in actuality, some symptoms can be productive in nature. For example, a person who may be experiencing some symptoms of anxiety, but not to a detrimental level, can choose to utilize their anxiety in a productive manner by helping to motivate them to implement change into their lives. Therapy can benefit a client by helping to teach them ways in which to effectively utilize their symptoms so to make the change they need.
– Dr. Holly Goller