On Your Radar podcast: Addressing the stigma around mental health and mental illness

Coming out of the pandemic, mental illness is as prevalent as ever in the United States. Yet despite advances in evidence-based mental health treatment during the last 20-30 years, only a fraction of those affected take the courageous step to seek treatment. One major reason for that is the types of stigma that still surround the topics of mental health and mental illness.

One type of stigma is self-stigma or internalized stigma. One may feel inferior and incapable of bettering oneself, or afraid to be judged by others or lose something (or someone) significant. Another type is public stigma, from others or the media. People can naturally be fearful of those who act differently, and that can even manifest itself unintentionally. Misconceptions, fear, and prejudice are stoked by the issue of mental health hitting the spotlight often when violent crimes make the news. Yet another stigma is institutional, which includes negative cultures, practices and policies from organizations, systems and even government.

Since mental health stigma can come from anywhere, it’s also incumbent on all of us to help recognize it and break it down. That includes, at individual and organizational levels, mental health professionals, teachers, parents, loved ones, friends, co-workers, and even those affected with mental illness. While we’ve certainly become more accepting as a society, we still have a long way to go.

One major step forward is simply learning more about mental illness to demystify it, whether that’s having a conversation with someone affected, reaching out to a mental health professional, or attending/organizing awareness events in the community. These may not always be the most comfortable experiences, but they can be the most enlightening and rewarding. When we have the courage to change our perceptions about mental health, that’s when understanding and empathy can begin.

And if someone is not functioning day to day, be it in family life, work life or social life, it may be time to get professional help. The worst misconception of all is that nothing can be done. Everyone deserves to thrive and enjoy life, and by acknowledging the issue, breaking through the stigma around it, and making even one change, we can all get better and even flourish.

If someone you know is experiencing any mental health concerns, check out the second episode of this season of the Rosecrance podcast “On Your Radar,” which covers the various types of stigma around mental health and mental illness.

Download “Destigmatizing Mental Illness” series 1 episode 2, HERE.