Mental health stigma

Let’s Talk About It: The Stigmatization of Mental Illness

As a practicing psychologist for many years, I’m acutely aware that focusing on mental health is non-negotiable. However, the stigmatization of mental health issues in our society makes coping with mental illness much more difficult.

The solution? Let’s talk about it. It’s critical that we open up a dialogue about mental health. It’s the only way we’ll start to break down these stigmas and ensure that people feel comfortable seeking help.

Why is mental illness so stigmatized?

The stigmatization of mental illness can be attributed to a number of causes. As obvious as it may sound, a lack of knowledge regarding mental illness stems from an overall shortage of reputable mental health resources. As with many other societal conditions, the media also plays a role. Popular Hollywood portrayals of mental illness often highlight sensationalized cases, leading to unfounded fears about many common types of mental illness.

It’s important to acknowledge that this stigma doesn’t just intensify the suffering of mental illness – it also prevents people from seeking treatment that could effectively transform their quality of life.

Defining mental health

Mental health has roots in all parts of our humanness: our brain, our ethos and our body. It’s a complex interaction of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors that affect our mood, thinking and behaviour.

There are many ways our body tries to inform us that mental obstacles are preventing us from living our best lives. Difficulties sleeping, decreased motivation to engage in things we normally enjoy, not reacting to something that merits a reaction or, alternately, over-responding to everyday stressors are some of the many signs that invite consultation with a professional.

Breaking the stigma

Mental illness impacts each and every one of us in some way or another. In order to live in a healthy society, each person’s proactive commitment to mental health is required.

Recent statistics suggest that one in five Canadians will experience a significant mental health issue in their lifetime. The World Health Organization reports that, by 2030, unipolar depressive disorders will rank as the leading cause of global disease burden. Isn’t it time we started talking about mental health?

Treatment options

Mental illness is not “all in your head” – it’s a legitimate medical problem that can be treated by specialized professionals.

Psychologists are trained to help you identify obstacles to living your best life by facilitating and co-developing effective strategies to help you experience a greater overall sense of well-being.

The process of therapy is intended to be informative, supportive and empowering. It’s important to work closely with your healthcare team to decide which type of treatment is best suited for you – and there are many options. In order to break the stigma, seeking support for mental health concerns needs to become as normalized as routinely getting help for physical ailments from your family doctor.

Treatment options can include a wide range of therapies and/or medication. While some people instinctively oppose medication, it can be helpful; meaningful change sometimes requires an aid to normalize a deregulated brain. In other words, each of us has a kind of pharmacist in our heads that may be either stingy or overly generous with the neurochemicals that promote brain health.

If you have concerns about your mental health, or that of a friend or loved one, your Copeman Healthcare physicians and the Brain Health team are here to help.

We can all help break the stigma by:

  • Educating ourselves – learn the facts about mental health rather than perpetuating the myths and misconceptions
  • Supporting others – be positive when responding to others facing mental health issues, and treat them respectfully
  • Sharing our concerns – reach out to someone (a friend, family member or therapist) for help if needed
  • Talking about it – break the silence and start talking about mental health