Mental Health Stigma

Good mental health is an overall state of wellbeing that allows you to grow and thrive. Although almost 10 million people in the world suffer from a mental health condition severe enough to affect their day-to-day functioning, only 40 percent of adults and 20 percent of adolescents with mental illness receive treatment.

One of the main reasons for poor mental health experiences lies in mental health stigma. The stigma attached to mental illness can aggravate mental health problems, prevent a person from seeking treatment, and hinder their recovery.

Stereotypes about mental illness and how it affects people are present in almost every society. Almost nine out of ten people with mental illness say that stigma has a negative effect on their lives. The stigma usually creates prejudices that cause discrimination. Consequently, discrimination and prejudices often lead to negative actions toward individuals with mental health problems.

Mental health stigma causes people with mental health disorders to have difficulties at school and work, be socially withdrawn, and prevent them from keeping up meaningful, long-term relationships.

Stigma and Masculinity/Masculine Norms

Studies show that men are less likely than women to seek professional mental health help due to masculinity norms and stereotypes that expect them to be tough and behave manly. It seems that men, in general, tend to bottle up their feelings instead of seeking support. Also, studies show that men often choose to seek relief in self-medicating or alcohol and drug abuse.

Fear of failure to meet the masculinity norms of a strong, brave, and assertive man seems to cause men to feel uncomfortable and unsupported by their family, community, and health care system. Therefore, males with mental illness frequently remain unidentified, undiagnosed, and untreated.

A great podcast discussing mental health and masculine norms is the Yorkshire Grit podcast (free on Apple Podcasts).

Mental Illness Stigma among Students

Recent studies show an increase in mental illness rates among the students in the UK, with suicidal thoughts and attempts as a major concern. From July 2016 to July 2017 the rate of suicide for students in England and Wales was 1 every 4 days. Many of these students didn’t seek support or speak out to anyone (this article from the Guardian looks into this further).

One way universities can aid in overcoming mental health stigma is to raise awareness and creating more discussion around different mental health issues. Priory did a survey that found that 90% of students questioned agreed that more could be done by universities to help students with a mental health condition.


How to Fight Mental Illness Stigma?

Western societies still struggle to openly address mental illness. However, removing the stigma from mental illness is a key in encouraging people to open up about their mental health issues and seek support. Personal contact with people who have a mental illness is the best way to overcome mental illness stigma. So, it is vital to encourage people to talk about their challenges. Also, promoting the awareness that no one is immune to psychological disorders is crucial in fighting mental health stigma.

There are a great number of services available to people with mental illness, from counsellors and therapists to online counselling platforms, support groups, and mental health organisations. These professionals and institutions work on reducing mental illness stigma and encouraging people to be more accepting of those who struggle with mental illness.

If you are a student who feels they may be suffering from mental health you may be entitled to the disabled students allowance.

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