Discrimination is the primary reason why the state of mental health services in America is at sub-par levels. Many individuals inaccurately believe that mental health problems are not true problems, and thus the field of mental wellness does not receive the awareness, funding, or education that it deserves.
Discrimination also affects families. Parents may feel shameful or embarrassed if their child is struggling, for example. Many individuals wait until stage four crisis before they or their loved ones get help, because they believe they are not “sick enough” to qualify for assistance. This is actually being negligent to their health and wellbeing.
What can be done to fight discrimination?
The primary weapon against stigma is education and respect.
Discrimination ultimately results from a lack of understanding. By addressing common mental health myths, by spreading education, by respecting the individual, by focusing on hope, and by correcting others who are spreading misinformation, we can fight and eventually eliminate the discrimination that we are facing.
On a personal level, you can fight discrimination by making the conscious choice to see past an illness. We are not defined by diagnoses, and anyone who is struggling deserves just as much love, compassion, respect, and empathy as anyone else.
How can I cope with discrimination?
Get prompt, appropriate treatment: Discrimination’s most damaging factor is that it can be a huge barrier to getting help. Don’t let discrimination get in the way of your road to health. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness by ignorant people stop you from taking back control of your health and your life. Proper treatment, inclusive of talk therapy, helps improve self-esteem, which helps to overcome unfounded, negative judgement.
Join a support group: Group therapy is a great way to feel connected to others who are in the same boat as you. It helps tremendously to spend time with individuals who understand what you’re going through and who will not judge you based on a diagnosis.
Don’t equate yourself with your diagnosis: You are not depressed, you have depression. You are not bipolar, you have bipolar. You are not schizophrenic, you have schizophrenia. You are not your illness, and by being sure to separate yourself from being labeled you can remind yourself that first and foremost, you are human and have as much worth as anyone else.
Don’t isolate yourself: You may be tempted to bottle up your feelings and keep them a secret in fear of being judged by others, but this will likely make things worse. Having a support system that you can talk to about what’s going on is invaluable to working through your illness.