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Eliminating the Stigma of Mental Illness

Physical illness is considered normal. Someone could have and recover from a physical illness and no one really cares, as long as the person gets to feeling better. However, the mentally ill are not seen as treatable. They are called negative names and often have to hide their illnesses from people, even sometimes their own family members.

Many know the negativity associated with having a mental illness. Why is there a stigma for the mentally ill but not the physically ill?

A stigma is something negative that a person perceives about another person.

Many illnesses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision, Edition Four (DSM-IV-TR) require treatment with medication and psychotherapy. Included are attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol and drug abuse, and many more. There are many people around the world taking medication for illnesses listed in the DSM-IV-TR, and many who should be and are not because of the stigma.

How can we help eliminate the stigma of mental illness? First, we must recognize that mental illness is just that—an illness. Those who suffer from a mental illness are not mentally deficient in their mental capacity; they just have had a chemical imbalance or a severe head injury that hinders their ability to function normally in a certain part of the brain.

For instance, those who have depression are not considered to be insane, and are usually prescribed medications and take psychotherapeutic treatments to help them recover. However, those who do take medications and treatments for depression are afraid to mention that to people because they do not want to be perceived of as mentally unstable or mentally deficient.

Those who suffer from bipolar disorder, with its dual polarity of euphoria and depression, also are treated with medication and therapy. But they are also considered to be mentally unstable.

Those who suffer from schizophrenia also are treated with medications and therapy. While some people who are more severely disabled by schizophrenia do need to be either institutionalized or helped throughout the day with their everyday chores, many can be treated successfully and maintain a relatively normal lifestyle.

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Those who suffer from mental illness are not mentally deficient. If a person has a severe case of double pneumonia, we do not say that they lack lungs, or that their lungs have been deficient since their birth and they should be put into a residential care facility. We take the person to the hospital, get them treatments and medications, and try to help them recover. While most do recover from such things as this, they usually do come home with still a bit of recovery left to do.

It should be the same with the mentally ill. If they are able to come home (many do stay home, and just have visits with their psychiatrist and take their medication), and stay on their medical plan, they usually are just as unnoticed as a person who has received hospital care for a physical illness. There may still be some lingering problems, but as long as medication is taken, and the patient takes care of him- or herself, a lot of the visible effects are gone.

Many of the mentally ill do suffer alone, or suffer only with their immediate family members. Those who do not have anyone to help them may take to the streets, or commit crimes in order to escape from some of their issues. While crime is still incredibly horrible and wrong, and living on the streets is not good either, a person feeling like he or she cannot receive help is very wrong. There are those who do not know that cheaper medications are available, or available for free for those who cannot afford them at all. Family physicians and psychiatrists can help patients find such programs.

Mentally ill people must be more willing to talk about how they feel to others, and those who are listening must not be judgmental or make the person out to be mentally deficient if they seem to be having problems with a mental illness. A person seeking help for a mental illness is stronger than those who do not, because they know the risk of asking for help from others who may not have the illness.

Here is hoping the best of mental and physical health for you and all the ones you love.

Eliminating the Stigma of Mental Illness

Clyde H. Hedgcoth, Jr.

APA Reference
H. Hedgcoth, C. (2020). Eliminating the Stigma of Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.