How does stigma prevent people from seeking help for mental health issues?

Last updated on January 11th, 2024 at 11:35 pm

(mental health stigma, reduce mental health stigma, breaking the mental health stigma, how does mental health stigma affect treatment, reduce mental health stigma in the workplace, social stigma attached to mental health)

Mental health issues have been a challenging area for many countries. In fact, it is the second priority in health condition for any country to address.

One of the situations faced by these patients is stigma about these mental illnesses. Yes. There are still class of people who consider mental health issues as stigma. But do you know how does stigma prevent people from seeking help for mental health issues ? This is very serious concern as this hamper the choice of treatment for affected individuals.

According to research, it suggests that stigma is a significant barrier to seeking out and benefiting from mental health treatment. Many people who start mental health treatment and care, drop out. Approximately one fifth of individual quit treatment in middle due to some reason. This accounts over 70% dropouts after their first or second visit to mental health care provider.

In this blog, we will discuss the reasons and possible situations through which stigma prevent people from seeking help for mental health issues.

How people prevent themselves from seeking help for mental issues due to stigma ?

1. Fear of judging

Fear of judgement due to stigma of mental health

Mentally affected people generally avoid having treatment or help due to fear of judgement. They generally do fear of judgement from societies, friends, family and sometimes even doctor. What they think of themselves is now very different of what they were thinking of themselves when they were stable. This is one of the reasons why might someone avoid getting help for a mental health concern.

According to many studies fear plays an important role in shaping mental health. Article published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology fear plays substantial role in adult mental health which affects his or her therapeutic relationships, engagement with mental health services. 

Now due to fear of getting judged from different classes or all over around, this people generally avoid seeking help. Who judge them, from where this judgement comes and why these people fear, is complex. Infact the stigma in itself is complex judgement. I will not go deep into it.

But talking about fear of judgement, I would like to discuss it in detail.

  • Mentally affected people do generally listen about themselves from surroundings. These voices are often negative about them. These people absorb all those false beliefs, what i say a stigma about themselves which develop and intensifies fear in them of getting judged. This fear prevents individual from coming out and disclose their issue.
  • This fear brings a feeling of outsider in individual. Individual fears of talking or disclosing his mental health issue. Individual thinks that disclosing these issues will bring rejection and isolation to him.
  • This fear lowers their confidence thinking that people consider them weak, incapable and mentally retard. Due this fear of judgement individual generally opts for not to take mental assistance.
  • In many cultures, and traditions, being mentally ill is considered as taboo. This builds the inferior feeling in the mind of individual. This prevents him from going through any mental health care or treatment.

Above all situations imposes feeling of fear and judgement in mind of individual which makes that person hard to disclose his mental situations.

Also read- home remedies for mental health conditions

2. Social isolation

Stigma leads to social isolation

Social isolation is one of the impacts of stigma related health issues. One of the study in Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal states that individual having any mental illness, reports their loneliness at much higher rate than general people.

It deepens the fear in mind of individual to put front his or her mental health issue. Let’s elaborate how this impact of stigma prevent people from seeking help for mental health issues.

  • These people start to avoid the social activities. It harbors the stigma of mental issue in the mind of individuals. This behavior of individuals makes more vulnerable to opinion of others.
  • In this state of mind, individual tend to loss the sense of understanding which affects his or her relationships also. Now these strained relationships make individual harder to share his problems.
  • Individual starts to feel himself as burden on family. Individual starts to self-isolate. He or she intentionally keeps distance from family and neighbors. In this situation individual finds hiding his or her issue a better way.

All above social isolation situations for individual makes themselves hide from social activities. This makes them more sensitive about the opinion of others about their mental illness. Eventually they deprive of any medical treatment or any help or assistance.

3. Victimize themselves

Individual with mental illness often and most of the time considers the opinion of others about themselves. They take it too seriously that even they also start to feel shame about themselves. They literally absorb the perception and negative stigma about themselves. They internalize the shame and negative perceptions about themselves which has many adverse effects. Those effects are more profound and deep in nature.

I will elaborate this for you so that you will know how effect of stigma as victimize self, prevents themselves for seeking any help.

  • This shame and negative perception about themselves make huge impact about themselves and builds self-identity according to perceptions.
  • This internalization of shame makes feel them that this is their personal failure. This thinking makes them hesitate for seeking any type of help.
  • This self-victimization makes one more mentally ill, it exacerbates the mental situation. This makes them think unworthy about the support or medical treatment they might have started or seeking start. This makes them drop out from treatment.

This effect of stigma has profound effects on mentality of affected individual also. This can decide the course of ongoing treatment or seeking treatment.

How does stigma prevent people from seeking help for mental health issues

Mental health stigma in the workplace

Addressing stigma in your working place is very important. This can hugely affect your personal as well as professional life. Creating healthy and open environment is important to reduce the stigma of it. Let’s discuss some of these measures offices and authorities can take to reduce the stigma about mental health.

  • Create the environment of openness. Encourage the employers to share their experiences and mental issues.
  • Arrange mental health education sessions in offices. This will educate the people about the mental health along with working.
  • Employer must maintain confidentiality about what the employ is sharing. Employes need assurance about the confidentiality of what they are sharing. Only then can individual or affected person will feel comfortable to share his or her experience.
  • Establish peer support network within the workplace.
  • Start to celebrate mental health awareness days. Or you can dedicate a week or month for mental health awareness.

Reducing the stigma at workplace definitely needs multiple approaches. But sometimes only creating openness about mental health would open doors to other approaches.

Breaking the stigma of mental health

Due to above all reasons, stigmas prevent people from seeking help for mental health issues. But there is something which really needs to be done.

As this stigma is deep rooted, it will sure take time in society to eradicate it.

1. Education

Education is powerful tool to make any impact or difference. Stigma about mental illness could also be addressed through education. Through education we can increase awareness about mental diseases, correct misunderstandings about mental illnesses and create empathy about affected individual.

The ways through which education helps in reducing stigma about mental diseases are more.

  • Misconceptions and misunderstandings about mental health or anything contribute a big to developing stigma about that thing. Through education correct and accurate information about that particular could be deliver into societies. This will correct the misinformation about those things like mental illnesses.
  • Through education the complexities of mental health conditions could be make understood to people. Often educated people approach sensibly and understandable to any complicated thing.
  • Education often creates curiosity in individual. Well informed mentally ill individual will ask questions, share their problem and help himself to seek medical assistance or any other help.
  • Education reduces the fear of any unknown or strange thing. In this case mental illness is itself is a fear. Educating correctly about mental illness would eliminate fear about the mental health conditions.
  • Education also plays an important role in meeting the misunderstanding of beliefs and stigma about mental health in some cultural and traditional backgrounds.
  • There is also media illiteracy about mental diseases. Education also do bring transformation among media making well informed about mental health.

Education for sure will bring transformation in any sector about any stigma. Education about mental health in societies, among culture and families will make them correctly informed about mental health.

2. Support groups

Support groups are group of individuals, volunteer to work under certain objective. Creating certain groups for spreading awareness about mental health, combatting stigma about mental health will help for society to be sensible about mentally affected individual.

  • These support groups builds sensible community to lend support to mentally challenged individuals.
  • Peer support is support through experience. This lends support to people who have gone through same situation is meant to support under those support groups. This has huge positive impact on mentally affected individual.
  • These support groups also works against stigma. They kind start a movement against the stigma of mental health.

3. Normalize the things

Creating everything normal about mental health cultivates the understanding and acceptable society. Making discussions about mental health in various platforms and in everyday dialogues helps in reducing stigma and create understandings about mental health issues.

Let’s break it down.

  • Stigma does develop due to silence and secrecy about that topic. Keeping everything hidden, not openly talking about it, creates bad environment for that topic. After openly talking about mental health conditions health as normal issue, light and sensible environment will be created within society.
  • By discussing more openly and naturally, people will get properly informed about mental health causes, treatment options, and other aspects.
  • When individual starts to openly share his or her experience, he gains support, empathy and compassion from the society. Eventually the great things will start to happen.
  • After normalizing the conversation about mental health conditions, individual will look out for health and support and may seek treatment.

Normalizing conversations about mental health is a much transformative process. It will surely help in reducing the stigma for mental health issue.

Eliminating stigma is off course is a collective and personal responsibility. It has to meet with an integrated approach. No single approach will help to reduce it. While it is deep rooted it also will take some time from society to disappear.

One of the approaches would create huge impact in this is to see mental health issue as any normal health illness. As I have discussed it in earlier that is the normalizing the things.

Plus, education, support groups and peer supports will also have huge impact in eradicating the stigma about mental health.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” So, no stigma is greater than human compassion and effort.


How does stigma affect mental health treatment?

Stigma affect mental health treatment by diverting attention of patient which leads to avoidance, delays and missing appointments for treatment.

How does cultural stigma affect mental health?

Cultural stigma affect mental health mainly through stereotypes. This leads to internalize shame, self-condemning thoughts and perception about own.

What are the four approaches to reducing stigma.

Reducing stigma is quite multiple approachable challenge. Education being foremost, other approaches include, support groups, activism and normalizing mental health issues.

What causes stigma?

Social ignorance, false beliefs, cultural beliefs about mental health and many other reasons causes stigma of mental health.

What mental disorders are most stigmatized?

Mental disorders are most stigmatized are schizophrenia, personality disorders and bipolar disorders.

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