Understanding Mental Health and the Effects of Stigma

Understanding Mental Health and the Effects of Stigma

Aug 22, 2023

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration1, the term “Mental Health” includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health encompasses both positive and negative aspects of our lives. The negative, being associated with the diagnostic term, mental illness.

Many things can negatively affect our mental health, including genetics, brain chemistry, trauma, abuse, stress, life changes, and more. These factors and experiences can cause mental disorders or illnesses that can affect thinking, mood, and behavior. These illnesses include but are not limited to: Anxiety, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Eating Disorders, and PTSD. Each mental illness is different, and can also affect people in different ways.

Cultural norms, religious values, and individual upbringing has shaped the narrative surrounding mental health for generations. Until recently, mental illness has been stigmatized, often bringing shame, negativity, and even rejection to individuals experiencing mental health challenges. It is reported that mental health stigma prevents 40% of people with anxiety or depression from seeking help2.

As a society, we are moving towards being more open about mental health in hopes to stop the stigma. FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy Clinical Director, Erin Rowlson, says “It is important to bring awareness to mental health. We talk openly about our physical health - pain, illness, wellness practices, but often shy away from speaking about mental health. The more you talk, the more people can build understanding. The more understanding we have the more compassion we build for others." Ways that you can fight the stigma include educating yourself or others on mental illness, being aware of your own attitude and word choices, and offering support and encouragement to those struggling.

Mental Health Signs and Symptoms

You are not alone. Visit https://www.familymeans.org/counseling-therapy/ or call 651-439-4840 to find support.

1“What Is Mental Health?” SAMHSA, www.samhsa.gov/mental-health.

2“Addressing Stigma.” CAMH, www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/addressing-stigma.