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Fighting stigma of mental illness

Approximately one in five adults in the U.S., roughly translating into 43.7 million Americans, battle mental illness in a given year. Despite effective evidence-based treatment, around 40 percent of individuals with serious mental illnesses do not receive the care they need and many who do, fail to complete the treatment. A recent report has identified stigma as a significant barrier for many individuals with mental illness wanting to seek help.

The report was published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. “The prejudice and discrimination of mental illness is as disabling as the illness itself. It undermines people attaining their personal goals and dissuades them from pursuing effective treatments,” says psychological scientist Patrick W. Corrigan of the Illinois Institute of Technology, lead author of the report.

“One does not work long on mental health issues before recognizing the additional hardships caused by stigma,” states commentary accompanying the report contributed by former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Rebecca Palpant Shimkets and Thomas H. Bornemann of the Carter Center Mental Health Program. They held poor funding for research and services, structural discrimination and “widespread, inaccurate, and sensational media depictions that link mental illness with violence” responsible for lack of care.

The report integrated existing scientific literature, identifying various types of stigma that prevented individuals from accessing mental health care.

Public stigma surfaces as a result of pervasive stereotypes associated with the mentally ill, such as being dangerous or violent. Individuals, in an attempt to avoid being associated with such negative stereotypes, drop out of treatment or skip it altogether. These labels may also influence those closest to individuals with mental illness, including friends, family and care providers.

Mental health care is not covered by some insurance companies to the same extent as medical care, insinuating that stigma against mental illness exists on a professional level.

Based on these realities, the report identified approaches to acknowledge stigma and help enhance the level of care among those with mental illness. These approaches range between various levels such as promotion of personal stories of recovery to instituting public policy solutions that focus on systems of care.

In the face of many significant advances, stigma related to mental illness remains a problem. The Psychological Science in the Public Interest report has been another effort to diminish this barrier.

“This issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest makes a strong start in consolidating and disseminating what we now know, that public policy, the law and media remain our greatest resources to stimulate change and spur action,” the report states.

“We also need to build bridges to other fields that connect to mental health, such as public health, primary care, and education.

“Together, we can create robust systems and services all along the path of recovery and encourage early intervention and access to treatments without fear of labels or diminished opportunities. When that is achieved, we will know that our tireless efforts to eradicate stigma have been successful,” it adds.

The Recovery Helpline works tirelessly to provide the best mental and behavioral health care to those battling substance abuse and mental illness. Our representatives are committed to connecting you with the best treatment plans and top quality aftercare programs. We believe in prioritizing the well-being and sustained recovery of our patients above all. There is no judgment, just care. If you or a loved one is currently seeking recovery, call us right away at 855-441-4405.

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