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It is important that facilitators keep an open mind about mental health issues and the mental health stigma attached to people experiencing these issues. Rather than thinking of people as having a mental disorder or being mentally ill, the Erasing the Stigma of Mental Health Issues through Awareness series helps facilitators diminish the stigma surrounding people suffering from all kinds of mental health issues. Stigmas occur when people are unduly labeled, which sets the stage for discrimination and humiliation. Facilitators can help erase the mental health stigma through enhanced awareness of the factors that activate the issues, accentuate the depth of the problems, and accelerate awareness and understanding.
To assist you, each of our workbooks in this series includes a module entitled Erasing the Stigma of Mental Health Issues to provide activities for helping to erase the stigma associated with mental health issues.
In this workbook series, we've used a variety of umbrella terms and phrases to address mental health issues related to the following diagnoses to help erase the stigma associated with mental illness:
Managing Intense Anxiety and Managing Anxiety for Teens
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder
Unspecified Anxiety Disorder
Managing Trauma & Managing Trauma for Teens
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Trauma & Stressor-Related Disorders
Acute Stress Disorder
Reactive Attachment Disorder
Exaggerated Startle response
Managing Moods and Managing Moods for Teens
Bipolar Disorder (old Manic-Depressive Disorder)
Major Depressive Disorder
Mood Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified
Persist Depressive Disorder/Dysthymia
Disruptive Mood & Dysregulation Disorder
Managing Unwanted Thoughts, Feelings, & Actions
Borderline Personality Disorder
Brief Psychotic Disorder
Managing Disruptive Behavior in Teens
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Impulse Control Disorder
Disruptive Behavior Disorder
Intermittent Explosive Disorder
A stigma is extreme social disapproval of some personal characteristic or a belief not considered socially "acceptable." Therefore, stigmas occur when people who have a particular attribute deemed unwanted by society are rejected due to the attribute. For example, people who experience bouts of moodiness are often judged unfairly as violent, unpredictable, moody, up and down, sad, explosive, aggressive, or unstable. These judgments can cause people who experience moodiness to feel devalued as human beings, ostracized from activities, rejected in social situations, stereotyped, minimized in the workplace, and shunned by others. People experiencing this mental health stigma of moodiness often feel extreme physical and psychological distress.
People who stigmatize and stereotype others bring about unfair treatment rather than help. This unfair treatment can be very obvious. For example, people make negative comments or laugh. On the other hand, this unfair treatment can be very subtle. For example, people assume that a moody person is dangerous or violent.
Mental health stigmas affect a large percentage of people throughout the world. Some common stigmas are associated with physical disabilities, mental health conditions, age, body type, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, family, ethnicity, race, religion, financial status, social sub-cultures, and conduct. Stigmas set people apart from society and produce feelings in them of shame and isolation. Stigmatized people are often considered socially unacceptable and suffer prejudice, rejection, avoidance, and discrimination.
What Can Be Done?
Continuing with the example of "moodiness," fear of judgment and ridicule about moodiness often compels individuals and their families to hide from society rather than face criticism, shunning, labeling, and stereotyping. Instead of seeking treatment, they struggle in silence. Let's discuss ways you can combat the stereotypes and stigmas associated with moodiness.
You and your loved ones have choices. You can decide who is to know about your moodiness and what to tell them. You need not feel ashamed or embarrassed.
You are not alone. Remember that many other people are coping with a similar situation.
Seek help and remember that the activities in this workbook and treatment from medical professionals can help you to have productive careers and live satisfying lives.
Be proactive and surround yourself with supportive people – people you can trust. Social isolation is a negative side effect of the stigma linked to moodiness. Isolating yourself and discontinuing enjoyable activities will not help.
We appreciate your work with your clients to erase each mental health stigma they experience. We are always available to chat with you about your ideas and hear your suggestions for future workbooks in this series.