Debunking the Most Common Stigmas About Mental Health

Henna Geronimo
April 28, 2023

Are you hesitant to seek mental health help due to fear of judgment? You're not alone.

Stigmas about mental health are pervasive in society, becoming a significant barrier for those needing urgent help. That said, it's vital to debunk these stigmas, as they only perpetuate misunderstandings and subpar care for those grappling with mental health disorders.

What is stigma
Source: Roots Mental Wellness

What Is Stigma?

Stigma is an expression of negative beliefs and attitudes directed toward a specific group of individuals. Within the realm of mental health, stigma involves misinformed perceptions and unfair treatment directed toward individuals with mental illness. This can take various forms, such as discrimination, social exclusion, and self-stigmatization.

What Causes Stigma?

The stigma surrounding mental health disorders often stems from a lack of understanding or education. Media portrayals, which commonly depict mental illness as dangerous or violent, also play a role in perpetuating stigma.

Some people may hold stigmatizing beliefs because of cultural or religious beliefs, while others are simply afraid of what they don't understand. However, when fear drives stigmatizing ideas, it can lead to harmful discrimination and social exclusion for individuals struggling with mental health disorders.

Thankfully, educating ourselves and others about mental health disorders is crucial in breaking the cycle of stigma. Increasing awareness and understanding can create a more supportive and accepting society.

Examples Of Stigma In Mental Health

Myth #1: Mental Illness is a Personal Failing

Many people believe that mental illness is a personal failure and that those struggling with mental health issues can "snap out of it." This myth not only places blame solely on the individual but also ignores the complex interplay of genetics and environmental factors.

According to data published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health issues are medical conditions that can affect a person's thinking, mood, and behavior. They are caused by genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

It's important to understand that this myth can be harmful and perpetuate stigma surrounding mental illness. Blaming individuals for their struggles can prevent them from seeking the mental health disorder treatment they need. In fact, a report showed that only 43.3% of adults with a mental illness received treatment in the past year.

Myth #2: People with Mental Illness are Dangerous

A common misconception is that people with mental illness are more likely to be dangerous or violent than others. This stereotype has been perpetuated by media portrayals and sensationalized stories that often misrepresent the reality of mental health.

In truth, people with mental illness do not exhibit a higher tendency for violence compared to the general population. Research indicates that only 3-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals with mental illness. Furthermore, it's essential to highlight that people with mental health issues are often the targets of violence rather than the ones instigating it.

Aspects such as substance abuse, a history of violence, and socioeconomic circumstances play a more significant role in predicting violent behavior than mental illness alone.

By understanding the actual causes of violent behavior and debunking the myth that mental illness is synonymous with danger, we can challenge these damaging stereotypes and create a more accurate and empathetic view of individuals struggling with mental health issues.

Examples of stigma in mental health

Myth #3: Mental Illness is a Choice

One of the most common stigmas about mental health is that it's a matter of choice. However, this is far from the truth.

Mental illness isn't a matter of choice or personal preference. Instead, it arises from a multifaceted interaction of genetic factors, environmental influences, and individual life experiences.

Research has shown that genetics can play a vital role in developing mental illness. For example, a study found that certain genetic variations can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Similarly, environmental factors such as trauma, stress, and substance abuse can also contribute to the onset of mental illness.

Myth #4: Mental Illness is a Rare Condition

It is a common misconception that mental illness is rare, affecting only a tiny proportion of the population. This myth may stem from the historical stigmatization of mental health conditions and the lack of open discussion. In reality, mental illnesses are more prevalent than many people realize.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four people will experience a mental health disorder at some point.

Mental illnesses are diverse and can manifest in various forms, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia. These conditions can impact individuals across all ages and genders, demonstrating that mental illness does not discriminate.

Myth #5: Mental Illness is a White-Collar Issue

You may also have heard of one of the most common stigmas about mental health, saying that it is primarily a white-collar issue. However, it's not true that it only affects those in high-stress jobs or with high socioeconomic status.

Mental illness can impact anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity. Studies have shown that people in marginalized communities are often more at risk for mental illness due to discrimination, trauma, and lack of access to resources. 

Socioeconomic factors like poverty, unemployment, and housing instability can also increase the risk of mental illness.

Source: Roots Mental Wellness

In conclusion, disproving stigmas around mental health is crucial in fostering a more inclusive and empathetic society. It helps break down barriers of isolation and shame often associated with mental illness.

By actively challenging these misconceptions and promoting mental health awareness, we empower individuals to seek the help they need and deserve.

If you are struggling with mental illness, please get in touch with us at Roots Mental Wellness. We offer a range of evidence-based treatments for mental health disorders, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and more. Go and take the first step towards improved mental health and well-being.

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Henna Geronimo