Although I think we(as a society) have come a long way in terms of mental health disorders and how they are perceived I would still argue that the stigma associated with them is devastatingly harmful. The biggest example I can think of is depression and the stigma associated with it that it is just in the persons head. All they have to do is think positive and they will be just fine. They are just downers. Well this could not be more inaccurate. And telling an individual who suffers from depression terms like that does nothing to help them. I found a paper online by Lewis Wolpert called A Stigma of Depression – A personal view. Who provides examples where people were told too “pull their socks up” . He also goes on to say that the stigma associated with depression can prevent people from admitting they are even ill, which may lead to the people taking their own life for not being able to “cheer up”.
Another example he uses is, his own interaction with depression. He discuss how in the beginning his explanatory model was purely biological that his being depressed was caused by a reaction to a drug he took for another problem. That he had no psychological basis for having the disease. He then went on to say this was easier to accept for him than admitting he had anything to do with the illness. But with that theory what type of medical or mental help would he seek? I would expect that he would go off the drug he believed induced the “reaction”, but would that necessarily solve the problem, he also would not be seeking help from a psychiatrist. With that then his mental state could get worse. He then went on to say even his wife could not understand why he was depressed as they were happily married? And boom, there is the stigma. So medically his explanatory model gives him a form of treatment that may not work, and socially his wife believes there should not even be a problem.
In total I think the way people perceive mental health directly correlates to how it will be treated. Seeking medical treatment is a choice, one that the person with the problem needs to make. If a patient has fear for admitting they have it, or thinks it’s just in their head they may not seek help. IF they donThis then feeds into the stigma that it is in their head. It’s like this never ending loop.
Lewis Wolpert, “Stigma of depression – A personal view,” British Medical Bulletin 57:1 (2001): 221-224.