The stigma of mental health continues to be prevalent despite society’s vocal support for advocacy. Half of those with mental illness didn’t receive treatment in 2020 due to fears of being seen differently or losing their job. That’s because discrimination is still a real concern. Many people are in favor of empowering mental health, but what would the world look like if that were the case?
Discrimination, Prejudice and the Stigma of Mental Health
Discrimination is a word that’s frequently used regarding race, class and sex. However, with mental health, there’s a notable silence. It’s an unfortunate fact that people with mental illness suffer from many forms of prejudice, including:
Health Care Coverage and Treatment
Insurance companies directly discriminate against people with mental illness by denying coverage. A Congressional Budget Office analysis found that mental health services were reimbursed 13-14% less often by commercial plans than Medicare. Physical health insurance claims don’t undergo the same kind of scrutiny as those for mental health issues.
Employment and Pay
Employment is fundamental to our well-being as it provides a feeling of purpose. Studies conducted by Yale concluded that those with mental health issues were less likely to be hired. This stigma discourages people from seeking support and encourages them to hide their illness from employers and coworkers.
Unfair Housing Practices
Landlords have found creative ways to circumvent housing laws and discriminate against those with mental health issues. One HUD study discovered those with mental illness were less likely to receive communications about available rental housing. They also received adverse treatment when requesting reasonable accommodation for their mental health condition.
Criminal Justice Stigma
Mental health is a major factor in incarceration rates. Studies show that a major mental illness diagnosis significantly increases the odds of going to jail. The prevalence of mental illness in prisoners is extremely high compared to the average population.
The media continues to contribute to negative stereotypes surrounding mental health. Many exaggerated and inaccurate images are used to portray those suffering from mental illness in movies, TV and social media. News reports intentionally sensationalize violence and murder associated with mental health issues.
This lack of support from society continues to cause shame about mental health conditions. Prejudice against mental illness has lead to self-harm for some individuals. Empowering mental health means providing recognition and support for those who need it.
How Can You Support Mental Health?
There are many small ways to show your support. If you know someone who’s struggling with mental health issues, taking these actions can contribute positively to their well-being:
- Be ready to help: If you notice that someone seems to be struggling, proactively offer to help. Sit down with them privately and ask how their day is going. Ease into the conversation gradually. Always respect boundaries and never force someone to talk when they don’t want to.
- Listen without interruption: Put your cell phone away. Don’t become distracted or attempt to change the subject. When someone opens up about a delicate subject such as their mental health, they deserve your full attention.
- Don’t attempt a diagnosis: Searching for symptoms on the internet doesn’t make you an expert. Don’t make assumptions about what’s wrong or jump in with your conclusions.
- Empathize: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another requires openness. You may not fully comprehend what someone is going through, but try to relate as much as you can.
- Ask how you can help: When a person is with dealing with mental illness, daily tasks may be difficult to complete. Offer to come by and help clean, walk the dog or mow the lawn. You can make a positive impact simply by helping with chores.
- Encourage professional support: Offer to go with someone to speak with a mental health professional. Regularly ask how the treatment is going, and praise them for taking steps to get better.
- Be mindful of terms and phrases: Many mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are spoken about casually. Saying things like “I’m so depressed!” when you’re just feeling a little down about something undermines people who are dealing with the condition.
- Don’t disclose someone’s diagnosis to others: Never share information about someone’s mental illness with others. Disclosing a diagnosis can seriously impact the individual’s work and social life. It always should be their choice.
There are other ways to show your support besides being a good listener. Volunteering can provide helping hands at underfunded mental health facilities. Attending awareness walks and other events can help raise community awareness of mental health issues. Educating your friends and family about the stigma of mental health can also make an impact. Regardless of what method you choose, remember that advocacy starts with you.
If You’re Suffering, Don’t Go It Alone
Society may continue to stigmatize mental health, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek support. Tell someone if you’re struggling, because getting the help you need is crucial to your well-being. Not addressing mental health issues can lead to other serious health problems, such as:
- Chronic pain: The mind can cope with mental illness by causing aches, pains and gastrointestinal issues with no physical source.
- Instability: Mental illness can make it difficult to perform daily tasks. Letting your work and personal life suffer can lead to instability in your day-to-day life and reduce your chances of recovery.
- Substance misuse: You may seek relief by using substances to diminish your symptoms. People with untreated mental illness are much more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
- Suicide: Living with an untreated mental illness can leave you feeling that there’s no way out. Research has shown that mental health issues are significant contributing factors in the majority of suicides.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to FHE Health if you have any mental health concerns. Contact us today at (833) 596-3502 to get the support you need to start your journey toward mental wellness. Our compassionate counselors are available 24/7 to speak with you.