No mental illness should ever be stigmatized

In today’s society, we’ve made a lot of progress when it comes to raising awareness for mental health. There is now a National Anxiety and Depression Awareness week during the first week of May, among many other times when we acknowledge other mental illnesses. 

We have also gotten more people to change their perspectives on seeking professional help from therapists and psychologists. As seen in a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), nine out of 10 people said they would recommend the help of a mental health professional if they or someone they know was struggling.  

Many universities, including NAU, also recognize and offer help to students struggling with mental health. For example, Campus Health Services holds the Paws Your Stress event throughout the year along with other services and events. Paws Your Stress is an opportunity for students to de-stress while playing with dogs, creating art or meditating. 

Despite all of this progress, there still seems to be a stigma around other mental illnesses that people view negatively. It is amazing we have normalized issues such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, but other mental health issues are still left as a taboo topic while being just as difficult to deal with.

When people think about mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder, they often think of movies like “The Visit” or “Split,” which inaccurately depict these mental illnesses and make them out to be violent. 

A lot of the false information the public has on mental illnesses, such as the depictions in movies or stories, demonizes those living through these things rather than reveal the truth about the illnesses themselves.

Despite what the media has portrayed mental illness as, there is very little correlation between those coping with mental health struggles and enduring violence when there is no substance abuse involved, according to Better Health Channel. Unfortunately, there is still very little productive discussion around stigmatized mental illnesses and what they actually look like.

Although anxiety and depression are the most common mental illnesses,  it’s important to also recognize those suffering with more commonly stigmatized mental illnesses and provide them with support. About 7 million people are affected by bipolar disorder each year, 3 million people are affected by OCD each year and millions are affected by others each year as well, as reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

With so many people affected by these mental illnesses — whether personally or through a friend or family member — it is important that we recognize these are valid issues. All mental health issues should be talked about so that we can stop the negative stereotypes about them and allow people to not feel like they have to hide having one. 

I have personally noticed that myself and others in my life are a lot more open to talking about anxiety and depression over other issues affecting us. It feels as though someone will be judged less if they were to say they have anxiety versus saying they have something that may garner more negative reactions.

In an article about mental illness stigma published by APA, about 76 million United States citizens fear people finding out about their disorder and thinking differently of them. 

It is important to change these stigmas so people can feel secure knowing that others do not view them negatively because of their illnesses. Additionally, it is time to stop disregarding disorders that we simply do not understand and deem as intimidating. Especially because many of these disorders greatly affect people’s lives. Highly stigmatized mental illnesses are among the deadliest.

An article published by Psychology Today explained eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders shared that 28.8 million U.S. citizens will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. With such serious effects, it is another mental illness that we need to begin discussing more openly as well.

Of course, none of this is to discount anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses that are more openly talked about today. Instead, I suggest that people should also be just as open to talking about mental illnesses that have a strong stigma surrounding them. 

Also, people need to do a better job of spreading accurate information. Stop believing the negative stereotypes we see inaccurately portrayed on screen. These prejudices affect people who are dealing with mental illnesses, and they should not be compared to violent characters from movies or made out to be dangerous.

Many people are affected by mental illness in some way and all of these mental health concerns deserve to be accurately discussed and treated with the same amount of respect.