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Imagine giving your life to your country by enlisting in the Army. During that time, you begin to question the state of your mental health. Who wouldn’t after the stress and horror you have been exposed to? As the soldier you prepare yourself to go to mental health to tell them about what you have been feeling. Billy Joe over here begins to tell you all the horrible stories about the men who fought along your side and how they did the same thing you are about to do. They were kicked out, made fun of and lost everything they had because having a mental illness while enlisted is one of the biggest stigmas in the Army. You slowly crawl back into your hole of darkness and hide your true feelings.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as of 2015 about 18 percent of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, but few seek treatment (Henderson, Evans-Lacko, & Thornicroft, 2019). Our problem right now is not the people with the mental illness, it is the people who choose to make the mentally ill of our time feel like black sheep. The hurtful words that spew from the mouth of the damned cause long term issues for the mentally ill. If everyone as a whole could provide the love and support to our mentally ill family members, friend, and co-workers the world would be a much brighter place and these individuals would not have to crawl into the darkness and feel alone.
Globally, more than 70% of people with a mental illness do not receive treatment from health care staff. Evidence suggests that the factors increasing the avoidance of treatment or delay before receiving care includes the lack of knowledge to identify symptoms of mental illness, ignorance on how to access treatment, prejudice against people who have a mental illness, and an expectation of discrimination against people who are diagnosed with a mental illness (Henderson, Evans-Lacko, & Thornicroft, 2019).
The relationship between stigma and discrimination in the mental illness world affects the access to care immensely. The stigma and discrimination of mentally ill individuals can impede new laws, funding, and availability of services. Addressing the public stigma might reduce experienced and anticipated drama among the people seeking services or individuals who already are engaged in their services.
In a 2014 report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 35.3% of people with severe depression symptoms said they have had contact with a mental health professional in the previous year. Some of these people felt shame when dealing with their psychiatric behaviors. This is because they’re exhibiting symptoms that are considered un acceptable in society, like irritability, sadness, and inattentiveness (Yagoda, 2019). To these individuals symptoms of mental illness are terrifying to talk about as they are difficult to identify, even for trained medical professionals.
Talking about the inner turbulence that the mentally ill individual might not even understand is the key to finding treatment, but that is what people suffering from mental illnesses struggle the most with. In a recent study in the journal Assessment that found people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder tend to underreport their symptoms. Underreporting is often caused by mental health’s stigmas and its nasty cousins: embarrassment, fear of being labeled as crazy, and negative self-talk (Klodnick, 2019). These issues keep people silent, averting them from getting the treatment they need.
To make any progress in the prevention of stigmas, we have to directly address stigma itself. We have to be better about talking about mental health on a regular basis in our communities. Starting with educating students in primary, secondary, and post-secondary education settings on the many early warning signs in their friends before adults can and having them not be afraid to speak up for their friends. The earlier someone is introduced to these “stigmas” and taught that they are not anything to be afraid of, more likely they will be able to grow up to help educate more people on how these differences are nothing to be afraid of. Supporting their friends and family is the better option.
Going back to the beginning of our reading I had introduced you to the military’s stigma on being mental healthy. In a 2006 study, published in Military Medicine (Vol. 171, No.11), they found that only 3 percent of people who referred themselves for mental health treatment had a negative career impact, as compared to the 39 percent of people who were referred by their commanders (Dingfelder,2006). There IS a stigma in the military, but a large part of it is their own co-workers are feeding into the stigma. They are feeding horrible stories that may only be about the 1 percent of bad encounters with mental health. The people who were kicked out could honestly be severely ill and not fit for combat, compared to the one soldier that just needs to rant about the people he lost alongside him in Afghanistan. He truly just needed to tell someone how he feels, and that is what mental health is here for, to help you understand your thoughts and feelings. Having a moment of weakness while being mentally ill or even chemically not being able to control your emotions is NORMAL.
Having a chemical imbalance or a bad year mentally is no reason to feel like you are a freak or that your friends are any different than you. Not getting help is helping no one and making fun of someone for something they can’t help is just ignorance. Educating ourselves and others on the importance of keeping ourselves mentally healthy, and understanding each other’s differences is the first step into saving more lives. The more support we can give each other, the less people might shy away from going to see mental health doctors. This means maybe less suicides, or even maybe less homicides that occur because of not receiving the help one may need.
- Dingfelder, S. F. (n.d.). COVER STORY The military's war on stigma. Retrieved July 20, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/06/stigma-war
- Klodnick, V. (2019, March 19). Why should we educate our communities about mental health challenges? Retrieved July 20, 2019, from http://www.thresholds.org/why-should-we-educate-our-communities-about-mental-health-challenges/
- Yagoda, M., & Yagoda, M. (2019, July 12). "I Really Don't Want You to Know About My Disorder". Retrieved July 20, 2019, from https://www.additudemag.com/overcoming-mental-health-stigma/
- Henderson, C., Evans-Lacko, S., & Thornicroft, G. (2013, May). Mental illness stigma, help seeking, and public health programs. Retrieved July 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3698814/
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