Written by: Lakshmi Mahadevan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Mental Health and Well-Being Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
What exactly is public stigma related to mental health, and is it affecting either you or your loved ones? According to Kalichman (2019), mental health stigma can be described as the shame, disapproval from society, or the act of discrediting individuals dealing with mental health issues. Furthermore, as outlined by Subu et al. in 2021, public stigma, also referred to as perceived stigma, encompasses the negative attitudes displayed by the community or the general public towards those who experience mental health challenges or illnesses. These negative attitudes often arise from fear or misunderstandings, and they can result in adverse consequences both within one’s personal life and in the broader social context.
6 Tips to Reduce the Impact of Public Stigma
Reducing the impact of public stigma on yourself or those you care about regarding mental health can be challenging but essential for overall well-being. Here are some tips to help mitigate the effects of public stigma:
- Education and Awareness: Knowledge is a powerful tool. Educate yourself and others about mental health conditions, their prevalence, and their causes. Understanding that mental health challenges are common medical conditions can help dispel myths and reduce stigma.
- Open Communication: Encourage open and honest conversations about mental health within your circle of friends and family. Normalize discussing mental health concerns without judgment or shame. When people feel comfortable talking about their experiences, it can reduce the stigma surrounding these issues.
- Challenge Stereotypes: Challenge and confront stereotypes and misconceptions about mental health when you encounter them. Share accurate information and personal stories to counteract stigma.
- Advocate for Policy Change: Get involved in advocacy efforts to change policies and laws that perpetuate mental health stigma. Support initiatives that promote mental health awareness and access to care.
- Use Positive Language: Be mindful of the language you use when discussing mental health. Avoid derogatory or stigmatizing terms, and instead use language that is respectful and person-centered – for example, “a person living with mental illness” vs. “a mentally ill person.”
- Professional Help: If public stigma is taking a toll on your mental health or the well-being of someone you care about, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapy can provide coping strategies and emotional support.
Reducing the impact of public stigma on mental health requires ongoing effort and a collective commitment to change attitudes and perceptions. By taking these steps, you can contribute to a more compassionate and understanding society regarding mental health issues. Keep in mind that you have the power to initiate the process of reducing the influence of public stigma – start by making a commitment to “Engage in Conversations About Mental Health.”
Kalichman S., (2019). Stigma and prejudice teaching tip sheet. In: American Psychological Association. 2019. https://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/education/stigma-prejudice .
Subu, M.A., Wati, D.F., Netrida, N. et al. (2021). Types of stigma experienced by patients with mental illness and mental health nurses in Indonesia: A qualitative content analysis. International Journal of Mental Health Systems 15 (77). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-021-00502-x
*Image Source: iStockphoto/Charday Penn