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Stigma Towards Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Stigma Towards Mental Illness and Substance Abuse by Danyelle Salpietro

{3:48 minutes to read} Have you ever experienced stigma for having a mental illness and/or drug or alcohol addiction? If so, how did you handle it?

What is Mental Health Stigma?

There are two types of mental health stigma:

  1. Social stigma: Negative attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors towards individuals that experience mental illness or drug addiction and/or have been given a psychiatric label or diagnosis
  2. Self stigma: The internalization and negative perception of the social discrimination by the individual experiencing the mental illness or drug addiction

Research demonstrates that stigma towards mental illness and substance abuse is common and widespread. Not everyone with a mental illness or drug addiction experiences stigma, but unfortunately, many do. Mental health stigma can negatively impact relationships, employment, and treatment outcomes, among many other areas.

Stigma develops from a lack of understanding and/or knowledge. Research shows that as the general public learns about mental illness and drug addiction, and gets to know individuals who have experienced these problems, their negative beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors towards those individuals decrease.

Many organizations, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the Center for Mental Health Services, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the National Mental Health Association, and the National Empowerment Center are working on national campaigns to educate the public about mental illness.

What are Some Strategies for Responding to Mental Health Stigma?

It may be helpful for people experiencing mental health stigma, whether social or self, to develop some strategies for responding. Those strategies may include:

  1. Educating yourself about mental disorders. Often times people blame themselves for their symptoms, become discouraged and lose hope in recovery. Educating yourself about mental disorders and their symptoms can help you identify self stigma while separating myths from facts.
  2. Correct misinformation in others without disclosing anything about your own experience. You hear a co-worker say, “People with mental illness are dangerous.” You might respond, saying: “Actually, I read an article that said that the majority of individuals with mental illness are not violent or aggressive. The media just sensationalizes certain cases.
  3. Selectively disclose your experience with psychiatric symptoms. This is a personal decision, and it is important to consider the risks and benefits of doing so. Disclosing your experience, however, can eliminate misconceptions or negative beliefs about your disorder.
  4. Become aware of your legal rights. It is important to know about laws that can protect you against discrimination:
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals with psychiatric disabilities in employment, transportation, communication, or recreation.
  • The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can help if an employer is unresponsive to a request for accommodation on the job due to a psychiatric disability.

Although mental health stigma continues to exist, we can each do a part in combating stigma to create more understanding and compassion towards those with a mental illness or drug addiction.

Dr. Danyelle Salpietro, PsyD
CBT Psychological Associates
2171 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 345
Commack, NY. 11725
(631) 486-5140
Office@cbta-ny.com

2017-11-16T17:39:10+00:00 By |0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Danyelle Salpietro, PsyD
CBT Psychological Associates
2171 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 345
Commack, NY. 11725
(631) 486-5140
Office@cbta-ny.com

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