By Norma J. Goodwin, MD, Founder and President, Health Power
Think a lot about the stigma associated with mental illness, and help to remove it, as the term mental illness is currently being overused, misused, and often misunderstood. As a result, there is often:
– reluctance of self, family and even some professionals to acknowledge its possible existence;
– reluctance to seek treatment, and
– frequent difficulties in achieving socialization and productivity.
Consider the following:
- Stigma disrespects and uses negative labels for persons with mental illness.
- Stigma discourages individuals and their families from seeking help.
- Stigma can be so hurtful that many people would rather tell employers that they served time in jail for a petty crime than admit having been in a psychiatric hospital.
- Stigma can result in inadequate insurance coverage for mental services
- Stigma can lead to fear, mistrust, and violence against people living with mental illness, and their families.
- Stigma can cause families and friends to turn their backs on people with mental illness.
- Stigma can prevent people from getting access to needed mental health services.
- Stigma often lowers self-esteem, which everybody needs, especially the mentally ill, because of the stigma associated with their illnesses.
What to Do:
- Always use respectful language.
- Emphasize people’s abilities, not their limitations.
- Tell a person if they express a stigmatizing attitude.
What Not to Do:
- Don’t suggest that successful persons with disabilities are super human.
- Don’t use generic or stereotyping labels like retarded, or mentally ill. Every person’s situation is different.
- Don’t use terms like crazy, lunatic, manic depressive, or slow functioning.
Remember: Knowledge + Action = Power!
Dr. Norma Goodwin
President, Health Power