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The stigma of mental illness is one of the major challenges we continue to face today

July 30, 2020 by optima0

The 1999 Surgeon General highlighted shame, stigma, and discrimination as major reasons why people with mental health problems avoid seeking treatment. According to the American Psychological Association, they found that close to one-third (30%) of adult respondents were concerned about others learning about their mental health treatment, and one-fifth (20%) identified stigma as a reason for not seeking a mental health professional.

Therefore, someone who is dealing with depression may not seek mental health treatment due to the “shame” associated with mental illness. Don’t let the stigma of mental illness keep you from getting help.

A study, published Feb. 25, 2014, in Psychological Medicine, the researchers collected information from 144 studies involving 90,000 people around the world.  The results of the study showed that “Stigma” ranked as the fourth highest of 10 barriers to care.

Others were afraid to let anyone know they have a mental health issue or were concerned about confidentiality.

Warning Signs of Clinical Depression

If you suspect that a friend or family member is struggling with depression, you may recommend that they go to their primary care provider.  Research has shown that most people will go to their primary care provider due to the stigma of going to a “mental health provider.” 

The warning signs of depression appear in the physical body, mental state, emotional response, and spiritual health.

Some of the signs are as follows:

#1. Physical Body

  • Insomnia (early-morning wakefulness or sleeping too much).
  • Aches and pains that don’t go away, i.e., headaches, muscle pain, cramps.
  • Overeating or appetite loss.
  • Digestive problems that don’t get better even with treatment.
  • Severe fatigue.

#2. Mental State

  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
  • Short-term memory loss or confusion.
  • Negative perceptions of everything and thoughts of suicide.
  • Loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable, including sex.

#3. Emotional Response

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness.
  • Irritability with daily life stressors and relationships.
  • Persistent sadness, anxiety, or “empty feelings.”
  • Pessimism with regards to daily and future life plans.

#4. Spiritual Health

  • Feeling hopeless and like the “Divine Source” doesn’t care.
  • Religion becomes a source of guilt and shame.

The Stigma of Mental Illness & Warning Signs in Social Media

It is also important to consider that we live in an age of social media and selfies.

Therefore, if you read some of the narratives written on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. you can read between the lines and see the cry for help, for example,

“I give up on everything.” or “I am always alone.”  

If you read narratives/posts which mention some of the warning signs of depression or other serious mental illness you may be the one person who checks on the individual by phone or in person.


How to Prepare a Friend or Family Member to Get Professional Help

To prepare a friend or family member to go to their primary care provider, you can tell them that it might be a good idea to get a physical and share some of the symptoms they have been experiencing with a medical professional.

You can tell explain to them that the primary care provider will want to know:

  1. When the symptoms began
  2. How long have they lasted?
  3. How severe are they, i.e., on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not too bad and 10 being extremely hard and may have experienced a trip to the emergency room?
  4. Does depression or other mental illnesses run in your family
  5. Do you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?


What Can We Do to Help?

We can all help by paying attention to the warning signs of depression or someone in need of help.  When you take the time to actively listen to someone from “your heart” and “their heart” you may hear a story that is woven in despairing words.


Don’t be afraid of the stigma of mental health. it’s okay.


Listening is a simple act of kindness.


When we listen to people, they will know they are not alone, and there is always help and someone who understands the pain of depression and other mental illness.  We need to be careful not to allow our hearts to become hardened and be mindful of the devastation of depression and other mental illnesses when left untreated.


(Courtesy of

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