Let us begin with the following statistics:
- In the United States of America, 1 out 5 adults are living with mental illness.
- Over 264 million people in the world suffer from depression.
- Approximately 275 million or 4% of the world’s population suffer from anxiety disorders around the globe.
- As of 2018, Greece is the most stressed country in the world.
As a reader, these numbers must be staggering! It is a worrying state to be in, as a global community, as human beings.
The big question is- despite the high prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety and stress, why the stigma around it? Why do we look down upon stress? Why do we feel the need to hide our turmoil?
Also, why stigma at all? These worrying statistics are a major public health concern and we CANNOT move forward without learning about the ways to address this issue at hand.
In this blog, let us understand what stigma looks like in everyday life and ways to address them.
What Is Stigma?
Stigma is defined as a mark of shame, discredit, or stain. It can also be understood as negative feelings, attitudes, and stereotypes held by people towards others.
So, is stigma only social or simply put…public? No, it is more than that.
Stigma inflicted towards self includes internalized shame & guilt associated with our illness. Whereas the systematic stigma is associated with how government policies and private organizations create limiting spaces for people with illnesses (intentional or unintentional).
Before we get into why it becomes extremely difficult to seek help for stigma, let us understand why stigma exists.
According to the American Psychiatric Association or APA, stigma stems from fear or unawareness concerning any illness. As beautifully portrayed in a book by Dr. Marjorie Baldwin, mental illness stigma’s roots lie in:
- Imposing responsibility: Has it ever happened to you that you are feeling anxious or sad and reached out to someone you trust and they asked you- Can’t you get out of it? You were so lively up until last year!
The majority of people feel that dealing with anxiety & stress or other serious mental illnesses is a matter of choice. This is the biggest myth & honestly, an unfair burden on the person who’s struggling.
- People are not sure what to do with the unpredictability: Can you decide when you’ll feel anxious? Is there an on and off button to our daily struggles and associated mental stress? No! This simple yet powerful point is often not understood by people.
This often leads to social isolation from the social communities because who wants to be with someone whose mood is unpredictable and is perceived as “weird”?
- People’s flawed perception of competency: One of the biggest myths that supplements stigma around mental health issues is the flawed perception of competency.
No promotion or isolation from group parties or not giving quality work- are few examples within the working environment where people are discriminated against due to their poor mental health.
Everyday Examples: The Invisible Lens
We now understand the why of stigma to some extent. Let us look at how it looks in everyday life.
In a short interview with the National Institute of Health (NIH), Gavin Bart, MD, Ph.D. talks about how rampant stigma is within the healthcare sector. He says:
I have had people with anxiety or other mental health disorders who have not received medication that may help them. Again, because healthcare providers fear that patients will misuse those medications.
Remember the systematic stigma?
The biggest challenge faced with anxiety or everyday stress is also invisibility. Our world is ruled by damning, physical evidence.
How can someone with racing thoughts convince their friends they are not in a position to join the weekend party? Or due to everyday stress, the individual is emotionally unavailable?
Where’s the evidence? A broken leg is acceptable but an emotionally and psychologically exhausted or torn person isn’t because nothing’s broken!
Therefore, to move forward, we must remove the myopic lens of how we understand health, especially mental health.
People are working towards ending the stigma associated with anxiety and stress. It is a long journey ahead but it is possible.
The Steps Towards A Safer Space
So, what are the ways?
1. Education and Awareness: If you have a story, like Ozia’s client, Sam (name changed), a retired NFL player who struggled with his serious sports injury and shared his recovery story with us, then do it. Sam, with his unrelenting resilience and natural remedies, started his healing journey. He is doing much better and continues to improve but also knows it’s a lifelong challenge & gives his energy every week to keep improving.
More the voices of lived experience the better! If you have no such experience then be a good listener. Learn learn learn. As you’ll learn, you will have a better understanding & tools to provide the kind of support that’s needed by an individual who’s struggling.
2. Establishing A Healthier Outlook: It is significant to change the perception towards our anxiety or stress. Choosing self-affirmations can help. An important tool in this journey is therapy. So, do consider it.
It is in totality about not harboring a self-stigmatizing attitude. Easier said than done but worth a shot.
3. Alternative Healing: The global communities are slowly moving towards traditional methods to heal their mental health. This coming together of a group has been empowering in terms of removing stigma.
For example, kava drinking for anxiety has become a popular and valuable discussion space for many. Subreddits to kava forums, people have found voices everywhere.
You can join Ozia & start your journey with our innovative and natural solutions. Our products are easy to use & effective. Simply click here to checkout any of our wide variety of kava products and get started today!
4.Media Rambles & Lack of Sensitivity: There’s no specific channel or group or media house. Mental health-sensitive reporting is uncommon even in 2021. The system is changing but until then, maybe you can actively engage with the problematic language of the media.
Or you can also limit your interaction with it. Too much exposure to the media can contribute to poor mental health.
Consider social media detox & viable methods to help ease your anxiety if at all they form the basis of your trigger.
There’s No One Way or The Other
So, there’s no one way to solve this problem. There are layers to it. Ignoring the complexity of this issue is ignoring the issue itself.
What can you do? Continue your efforts as mentioned before. Keep trying as a friend, ally, advocate, activist, student, teacher, parent, sportsperson, politician. You have the power to change.
Also, find your avenues to deal with stigma, especially self-stigma. Winning internal battles is of paramount importance, right?
At Ozia, we support each individual’s journey & believe in the power of transforming with nature. Our products are designed to fulfill your needs to heal naturally & at your own pace.
Want to know more? Feel free to check out our previous posts
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Aware. (n.d.). MentalHelp.net. Retrieved August 26, 2021, from https://www.mentalhelp.net/aware/the-stigma-of-mental-illness/#:~:text=In%20America%2C%201%20out%20of
Fleming, S. (2019, January 14). This is the world’s biggest mental health problem – and you might not have heard of it. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/this-is-the-worlds-biggest-mental-health-problem/#:~:text=goes%20to%20anxiety.-
Greenstein, L. (2016). Understanding What Causes Stigma | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/Understanding-What-Causes-Stigma
Ray, J. (n.d.). Americans’ Stress, Worry and Anger Intensified in 2018. Gallup. Retrieved April 25, 2019, from https://news.gallup.com/poll/249098/americans-stress-worry-anger-intensified-2018.aspx?g_source=link_NEWSV9&g_medium=LEAD&g_campaign=item_&g_content=Americans%27%2520Stress%2c%2520Worry%2520and%2520Anger%2520Intensified%2520in%25202018
Stigma and Discrimination. (2020, August). American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination#:~:text=Stigma%20often%20comes%20from%20lack,contribute%20to%20both%20those%20factors.
What Does Stigma in Healthcare Look Like. (2021, January 15). YouTube; National Institute of Health (NIH). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQy4uXx4bsg
WHO. (2019, November 28). Mental Disorders. World Health Organization; https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders