Mental Health Treatment: 10 Stigmas

May 14, 2013

Mental health treatment stands to help a large portion of the American population. Statistics reported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) show that one out of every four American adults is living with a mental illness.  A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control shows that as many as 20% of children are also suffering from a mental health disorder. However, barely more than half of these individuals will seek treatment. In large part, the stigma surrounding mental health help is responsible for the difficulties people face in seeking treatment. Today, we’re breaking down 10 of the most common misconceptions about mental health treatment. By educating people about mental illness, we hope that more people will gain access to the help they need.

Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Treatment

1. People who seek mental health help are crazy

Absolutely not. Mental illness occurs for neurological and biological reasons. It is a medical condition, not a shortcoming. Words like ‘crazy’ and ‘psycho’ are inapplicable and harmful, because they can lead to feelings of shame that may prevent someone from seeking help.

2. People with a mental illness are dangerous

False. Research indicates that only a very small percentage of violent crimes, including gun crime, are committed by people with a mental illness.

3. Mental illness treatment should be kept a secret

In the past, mental illness was often treated as a ‘family secret,’ and was not discussed openly. When we avoid talking about mental illness, we contribute to the stigma. Individuals are not required to discuss their mental illness, nor should they be kept quiet.

4. Mental illness indicates weakness.

In particular, men tend to avoid seeking mental health treatment because they fear being seen as weak. In reality, being honest and asking for help is a sign of strength.

5. Mental illness is a character flaw.

Sometimes people think mental illness is a self-fulfilling prophecy, that an individual has ‘caused’ it in some way. This is not true, as the onset of mental illness is out of a person’s control.

6. Mental health treatment is ineffective

People may avoid mental health treatment because they don’t believe it can help. In fact, many mental illnesses are highly treatable and getting help can lead to a healthier, happier life.

7. Mental health professionals are untrustworthy

Some people do not trust doctors, especially those in the mental health field. The symptoms of mental illnesses can be difficult to diagnose and define, and the right doctors will do all they can to develop an appropriate, specialized treatment program for their clients.

8. Seeking mental health treatment can hurt my chances of finding a job.

In reality, living with an untreated mental illness can be much more damaging to your work life. Your behavior may be erratic and unreliable, which typically does not appeal to employers.  In most fields you are under no requirement to report mental health treatment to a prospective employer.

9. Mental health treatment is too expensive

Unfortunately, mental health treatment can be costly. However, we are working to make it more accessible by linking low-cost, quality treatment providers with the people who need them. Treatment can be possible, regardless of your income.

10. Mental health treatment facilities aren’t culturally sensitive

People from different cultural backgrounds may hold different beliefs when it comes to modern medicine. Unfortunately, not all treatment programs are culturally sensitive, but with education, that is changing. We can help connect you with respectful treatment providers, allowing you to receive treatment while staying true to yourself and your culture.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a mental illness and is facing financial obstacles to services, please call us at 1-800-338-5770.  At Guardian Behavioral Health Foundation we provide access to low-cost or no-cost mental health services through a variety of community mental health centers and professionals.  We also offer educational workshops for families and professionals.