Ignorance, stigma about mental health rampant among people, finds survey

Ignorance, stigma about mental health rampant among people, finds survey

People with mental health problems have a lot to bother about in life besides dealing with their devastating condition. For them, every day is a battle to win. It is unfortunate that people who deserve love and support at personal and social level are struck by the stigma attached to mental health problems. They are ignored, insulted and ill-treated. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 43,421 American adults aged between 18-25 years had some mental illness in the past year. The numbers have steadily increased in the last two years.

But how many people can actually assess their mental health, recognize the symptoms of a mental disorder and seek treatment? A recent national survey, conducted by the Michigan State University (MSU), has analyzed the mental health literacy on four major issues: depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse and prescription drug abuse. The results revealed that only 50 percent Americans could recognize signs of anxiety. Most of the people with depression were helpless even after they spotted it. In addition, nearly eight in 10 people did not consider prescription drug abuse as a treatable problem.

The survey also revealed that 32 percent of all respondents could not identify signs of prescription drug abuse, such as excessive mood swings, taking higher doses than prescribed, poor decision-making, changes in sleeping patterns and doctor shopping. It even found that 47 percent people aged 18-34 years and 44 percent of men were more likely to experience the inability to acknowledge these signs.

“Our work is designed to help communities think about how to address behavioral health challenges as they emerge, whether that’s drug abuse, anxiety or other issues, and the challenges such as suicide that can accompany them,” said Mark Skidmore, an MSU professor and co-investigator on the project. The web-based survey comprising nearly 4,600 participants aimed at helping health officials and policymakers identify the target area for education and prevention programs related to prescription drug abuse and other mental health problems.

Tips to cope with stigma

Although advances have been made in the sphere of mental health literacy in recent decades, many gaps associated with helping behaviors, mental health knowledge and stigma need to be bridged. Some of the harmful effects associated with stigma may include: reluctance to seek treatment or help, fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities, lack of understanding by family, friends and co-workers, bullying, physical violence or harassment, inadequate insurance coverage for mental illness treatment, and feeling of dejection and hopelessness.

Here are some effective ways that can help mentally ill people deal with stigma:

  • Do not let stigma engulf self-confidence.

Sometimes, an individual starts nurturing thoughts of personal weakness brought about by the discrimination that he or she faces. Educating oneself about the condition, connecting with others sailing in the same boat and seeking counseling can help people gain self-esteem and get rid of destructive self-judgment.

  • Living in isolation can be dangerous.

People with a mental illness should not detach themselves from society and family. In fact, spending quality time with loved ones or members of community, and reaching out to people they trust for compassion and support can prove effective in overcoming negative emotions.

  • Support groups are useful.

Some local and national groups offer programs that help diminish stigma. These programs educate people about their condition and provide practical advice to deal with it. Some groups also run behavioral therapies to alter negative thinking.

  • Speak out against stigma.

It may be difficult in the beginning but once people gather enough confidence to express their views, it can produce positive effects. One can speak at events; write journals, blog, or upload photos and posts on their social media accounts to express opinion and garner support. This will also encourage similar people to discuss their problems openly.

Treatment to improve mental health

Mental illness deters many people from admitting that they have a problem and asking for help. They are reluctant to seek treatment due to the fear of ridicule and being perceived as weak. But they have to overcome their fear and avoid delaying the matter. Mental illnesses are treatable with timely intervention to help avoid drastic consequences.

If you or someone you know is experiencing stress or anxiety, the Florida Helpline for Anxiety can be a useful online resource to seek information about the best anxiety treatment centers in Florida. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-920-9834 or chat online with a representative to know about the centers offering evidence-based anxiety disorders treatment in Florida.

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