The Stigma of Depression The Reason We Hide it- At All Costs
Wolpert: “Depression is a serious illness of which I and other patients should not be ashamed but this is hard to avoid. The stigma of depression is different from that of other mental illnesses and largely due to the negative nature of the illness that makes depressives seem unattractive and unreliable. Self stigmatization makes patients shameful and secretive and can prevent proper treatment. It may also cause somatisation.
A major contributing factor is that depression for those who have not had it is very hard to understand and so can be seen as a sign of weakness. Openness by depressives and education in schools could help.” (Lewis Wolpert, “Stigma of depression – a personal view”, British Medical Bulletin)
Corrigan and Watson: “Although research has gone far to understand the impact of the disease, it has only recently begun to explain stigma in mental illness. Much work yet needs to be done to fully understand the breadth and scope of prejudice against people with mental illness. Fortunately, social psychologists and sociologists have been studying phenomena related to stigma in other minority groups for several decades .” (Patrick W. Corrigan and Amy C. Watson, Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness, World Psychiatry Journal)
Friedman: “People with mental health issues recognize and internalize this stigma to develop a strong “self-stigma.” This self-stigma will often undermine self-efficacy, resulting in a “why try” attitude that can worsen prospects of recovery. Further, as people begin to experience symptoms of their mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, stigma may cause some people to try to avoid, separate from or suppress these feelings, all of which have been linked to the worsening of well-being. This stigma doesn’t just worsen outcomes on a personal level, but also complicates the care and resources available to people with mental illness. In its “Attitudes Towards Mental Illness” report, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noted that stigma can result in a lower prioritization of public resources and poorer quality of care. One research review of 22 studies that focused on barriers to care and mental illness determined that stigma and embarrassment were the top reasons why people with mental illness did not engage in medication adherence. The effects of stigma work both ways – mental health conditions are not typically screened in most health care settings, losing an important opportunity for care. (Michael Friedman Ph.D, The Stigma of Mental Illness Is Making Us Sicker, Why mental illness should be a public health priority, Psychology Today)
The facts: “One-in-four people will be affected by a mental illness; it is one of the leading causes of disability in North America; the World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide. And in spite of the facts, people rarely talk about mental illness. You’re much more likely to hear about your neighbor’s heart condition than you are to hear about his mental health.
This silence is due to the long-standing stigma related to mental illness. Even though access to accurate information about mental illness increases each year through new research, training and various organizations whose mandate it is to educate the public, the shame attached to these disorders remains. And some mental illnesses seem to elicit more negative connotations than others.
Stigma and Depression
“If there’s one mental illness seen on television more than any other, its depression. Recall the many antidepressants commercials in which people with depression are depicted in their “before treatment” state of sloppy clothes, unable to get up off a couch or as a wind-up toy that’s become unwound. This is followed by “after treatment” images involving smiling people walking hand-in-hand with their partner.
These are not positive images for people with depression and may actually increase stigma.” (shepellfgi, the largest employee and family assistance program (EFAP) provider in Canada , The Stigma Related to Mental Illness)
Steps to cope with stigma: Mayo Clinic Staff
“Here are some ways you can deal with stigma:”
- Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame.
- Don’t isolate yourself.
- Don’t equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness.
- Join a support group.
- Get help at school. If you or your child has a mental illness that affects learning.
- Speak out against stigma.
- Get treatment. You may be reluctant to admit you need treatment. Don’t let the fear of being labeled with a mental illness prevent you from seeking help. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
Yes, above all, get treatment. This is where Counseling on Demand comes in.
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