How Open Discussion of Mental Health Disorders Can Prevent Addiction

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year. That equals over 61 million people. The NAMI also reports that over nine million people have both a mental health problem and an addiction to drugs.

Stigmas Associated with Mental Illness

Despite their prevalence in the U.S. and other countries, mental health disorders are stigmatized, stereotyped and misrepresented in the U.S. Individuals with a mental illness are often afraid to openly talk about it because they fear the reaction they will get. The types of stigmas surrounding mental illness include:

  • People with mental health problems are dangerous and unpredictable.
  • Depression and other mental illnesses are a sign of weakness.
  • Some mental health problems (eating disorders and addiction) are self-inflicted.
  • People with a mental illness are hard to talk to.
  • Mentally ill people cannot be productive employees.
  • Poor and unintelligent people are more likely to suffer from a mental illness.

These are just a few of the stigmas associated with mental illness. Unfortunately, stigmas lead to a number of negative outcomes and experiences that those with mental illness must endure. Common results of stigma regarding mental health include:

  • Inadequate insurance coverage for mental health
  • Fear and mistrust of those with mental illness
  • Violence against those with mental illness
  • Abandonment by friends and family because of a mental illness
  • Discrimination
  • Personal shame, distress and hopelessness

The most troubling result of stigma is that many people with mental illness do not seek treatment. They are afraid to talk about it because they don’t want to be treated as an outcast. Instead of seeing a physician, many people will turn to drugs as a way to self-medicate and relieve or lessen their symptoms. For example, people with depression may turn to speed or other drugs like it that improve mood and cause euphoria. Some also turn to drugs as a way to forget their mental health issues. They might use alcohol in excess or take drugs that will provide a temporary escape from their current reality.

The only way to end the stigma surrounding mental illness is to talk about it openly. This must take place not only on a local level, but also on a national scale as well. Prejudices often disappear when you actually meet a person with a mental illness and see that what you had envisioned is false. Community leaders and professionals in the medical and psychiatric community must work together to present a positive message about the ways that individuals with mental illness can function as healthy, happy members of society. When people begin to change their attitudes about mental illness, and the subsequent stigma subsides, those with mental illness can openly admit their struggles and get the help they need. Until then, those with mental illness will likely to continue to use drugs (including alcohol and prescription drugs) to mask and/or manage their symptoms.

Getting Help for Your Addiction

If you struggle with both a mental illness and addiction, you are not alone. Millions of people just like you have been in your shoes. Some of them have discovered that help is available. That’s where we come in. You can call our toll-free helpline any time, 24 hours a day. You can talk with one of our admissions coordinators about your symptoms and together you can find the best treatment facility for your needs. Don’t allow stigma to keep you from getting help. Call us today.

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