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Removing the Stigma On Mental Health


What’s With the Stigma?

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

BACKGROUND:

The stigma surrounding mental health is one of the greatest challenges facing the world of psychology today. As technology advances and treatments are greater developed, shouldn’t our perspectives be broadened as well? This is where my interest was sparked; I felt that the hypocrisy and ignorance that comes along with the mental health stigma should be addressed and challenged. I wanted to instill change in the world of mental health, and I believe that this is where any change must start.


THE CHALLENGE:

How can you change somebody’s perspective? It is apparent, especially in this political climate, that people are stubborn about their beliefs. The greatest challenge would definitely be making people see beyond their misconceptions, which can be very difficult. However, while challenging, this obstacle must be overcome in order to affect change. The way I aim to solve this problem is through persuasion and hard facts, I’m planning to open the eyes of the user to the reality of mental health through the lens of this campaign.


THE SOLUTION:

A campaign. The way I aim to reduce the stigma is to open the eyes of the public through various forms of statistical analysis and facts. I included a steps one should take to better their own perception and two raise awareness around them. Below are these various factors, including surveys, pledges, interviews, and more. This is a tricky subject to tackle but this is how I believe we can begin to uproot it.

 


 

Before we can stop the stigma, we must debunk these five mental health myths:

Myth: You’re either mentally ill or mentally healthy

Truth: Similar to the way a physically health person may still experience minor health issues, such as bad knees or high cholesterol, a mentally healthy person may experience an emotional problem. Mental health is a continuum and people can fall anywhere on the spectrum. Even if you are doing well, you are most likely not 100% mentally healthy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates only 17% of adults are in a state of “optimal” mental health.

Myth: Mental illness is a sign of weakness

Truth: Mental strength is not the same as mental health. Just as someone with diabetes could still be physically strong, someone with depression can still be mentally strong. Many people with mental-health issues are incredibly mentally strong. Anyone can make choices to build mental strength, regardless of whether they have a mental health issue.

Myth: You can’t prevent mental health problems

Truth: You can’t prevent all mental health problems–factors like genetics and traumatic life events play a role. But everyone can take steps to improve their mental health and prevent further mental illness. Establishing health habits–eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, participating in regular exercise–can also go a long way improving how you feel. Similarly, getting rid of destructive mental habits, like engaging in self-pity or ruminating on the past, can also do wonders for your emotional well-being.

Myth: People with mental illness are violent

Truth: Sadly, when the media focus on mental illness, it’s often in regards to a headline about a mass shooting or domestic violence incident. While these headlines frequently portray many violent criminals as being mentally ill, most people with mental health problems aren’t violent. The American Psychological Association reports that only 7.5% of crimes are directly related to symptoms of mental illness.

Myth: Mental health problems are forever

Truth: Not all mental health problems are curable–schizophrenia, for example, doesn’t go away. Nevertheless, most mental health problems are treatable. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 70-90% of individuals experience symptom relief with a combination of therapy and medication. Complete recovery from a variety of mental health issues is often possible.

Interview with Dr. Sanjay Patel, MD

Q: How do you contribute to the world of mental health?

A: I am at child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist. I do therapy with the majority of my patients. I also prescribe medication to some patients. I teach at NYU Child study Center, where I work with the fellows. Fellows are doctors who have finished five or six years of training, and are finishing up the medical training.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in this field?

A: I wanted to work with kids since I was a kid myself. When I was in medical school I saw how much mental health could impact an individual. I also learned how great of an impact a single person can have as mental health practitioner.  I feel the  mental illness can cause people to suffer as much or more than anything else. I get a great deal of satisfaction helping people every single day.

Q: What do you think is the most notable part of working in the field of mental health?

A: Overall, mental health is a young science. We are still learning so much about the brain. There are major new developments coming out every year or every few years, so this is a rapidly changing field. One of the most unique things about my job is to get to know people on a deep level, and everyone has a different story.  

Q: What are a few of the challenges you have faced working in this field?

A: For people working in mental health, staying balanced is very important. If the job is draining emotionally, and you spend many hours working at it,  it can potentially become hard to continue continue the job. In general, I have a very high tolerance for therapy and psychiatry. In other words things that might upset other people don’t usually upset me. This is true for many people in medicine. Some people don’t mind seeing wild and insides of individuals, and those people might going to surgery. Other people get excited by emergencies those people might go work in ER.   One of my challenges is maintaining a sense of myself in a personal life enough that I don’t risk burning out in the future. I take a 2 week vacation every year, and when I come home from work I focus on my kids and my family first.

Q: What are some of the most common misconceptions about the treatment of mental illness and people with mental illness as a whole?

A: There are several common misconceptions about mental illness. Some people think mental mental illness is rare, but actually it’s very common. Most people will either experience mental illness at some point in their life, or they will have a loved one or friend who experiences in. Sometimes people seem to think that mental illness only affects certain people,  but it affects everyone. Young and old, rich and poor, all races, all ethnicities, every country in the world.   I consider mental illness to be like a medical diagnosis, not a character flaw. Many times people mental illness just need some support or tools to help move past their difficulties.   Before I decided to go into psychiatry, I thought it would take a long time to treat somebody and make them better. I imagined my ticket years to help cure somebody. Very early on I learned that people can improve quickly, and even a single session with an individual can be therapeutic.

Q: What do you think causes the stigma surrounding mental health and do you think there’s a solution?

A: There is a lot of ignorance around mental health and mental illness. As much as possible I am to reduce stigma. That can involve sharing statistics about how common mental illnesses and telling stories about successful individuals who struggle with certain aspects of mental illness.   I also think we should be normalizing mental illness.  By calling certain things “medical problems”  and not just psychiatric diagnoses,  I believe we can help reduce the stigma. Sometimes people get advice like try to be positive, or don’t worry about it. Nobody would say that to somebody who has the flu, or diabetes. For regular medical issue people would say this is your diagnosis, and there certain treatments. For example you can change your diet, exercise and lose weight, or take certain medications. I think we should be talking about mental illness the same exact way.

To Start Off, Here are the Steps We Must Take:

  1. Understand the Numbers: Mental Illness Affects Millions. Support People Working to Make a Change.
  2. Integrate Mental Wellness into Daily Life
  3. Practice Empathy

 

Step 1: Understand the Numbers

 

When mental illnesses are so common, do we really have a platform to be stigmatizing them? More than half of children 8-15 have received mental health services; however, children are still bullied over these matters. 1 in 25 adults suffer from an extremely severe mental illness every year, and 18.5% of adults will experience any form of mental illness in a given year. Despite these significant percentages, people suffering from mental illnesses are still perceived as abnormal, and approached with numerous misconceptions. Why?

Anonymous Mental Health Survey Taken By Friends and Family:

This survey was taken primarily by girls (92.5% of respondents) and was mostly made up of people 17 or younger (87.5% of respondents).

These were the findings:

  • In response to the question, “In general, how would you rate your overall mental or emotional health?”,  5% answered poor, 20% fair, 42.5% good, 30% very good, and 2.5% excellent. This means that 25% of respondents considered themselves on the lower end of the mental health spectrum, and 32.5% on the higher end.
  • In response to the question, “Have you ever seen a therapist?”, 57.5% of respondents said that they had. People who answered no were then asked if they would ever consider seeing a therapist, and 69.57% of respondents said yes. People who answered yes were then asked how consistently they visit their therapist; 36.84% said on a biweekly or weekly basis, 15.78% said on a monthly basis, 10.52% a few times a year, and 36.84% said whenever they feel like it. The rest of the percentages were people who have never seen a therapist.
  • People who have seen a therapist were then asked if they go for a specific mental health issue. 45% of people who see therapists answered yes.
  • When asked if they had been recently diagnosed with a mental health issue, 28.21% of respondents answered yes.
  • When asked if they had been receiving treatment for a mental health issue, 17.95% of respondents answered yes.

 More Facts:

  • According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, one out of four American families include a member diagnosed with some type of mental illness.
  • Mental illness does not discriminate. It strikes people of every race, gender, and economic background. While many mistakenly believe this illness can be overcome with simple willpower, that is simply not the case.

Step 2: Integrate Mental Wellness Into Daily Life

By openly talking about mental health problems we will help others realize the scientific fact that mental health issues are medical issues–and they are not only pervasive, but they desperately need to be understood and treated. Mental health starts with the individual. Take care of your own mental health by doing what you need in order to remain mentally well. If it’s mediation, medication, or meditation, do what you need to keep your mind healthy. Brain health is one of our most valuable assets. Do all that you can do.

 

Strategies for Good Mental Health Wellness:

  • Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practice deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or progressive muscle relaxation are ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation
  • Time to Yourself: It is important to set aside time everyday to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you.
  • Physical Activity: Moving around and getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphins. Exercising provides some stress relief.
  • Reading: Escape from reality completely by reading. Reading can help you to destress by taking your mind off everyday life.
  • Friendship: Having friends who are willing to listen and support one through good and bad times is essential.
  • Hobbies: Having creative outlets such as listening to music, drawing or gardening are great ways to relax and relieve everyday stress.
  • Sleeping: The human body needs a chance to rest and repair itself after a long and stressful day. Sleeping gives the body this chance so that it is ready to perform another day.
  • Nutrition: Eating foods that are good for you not only improves your physical health, but they play a major role in your mental health. When your body gets the proper nutrients, it is better able to function in every capacity.

There are also Negative Coping Skills which can hinder progress in dealing more positively with stress. Action that are harmful to both mental and physical health include:

  • Drugs
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Self-mutilation
  • Bottling up feelings
  • Sedatives
  • Stimulants
  • Excessive working
  • Avoidance of problems
  • Denial

Ten Tips for Better Mental Health

  1. Build Confidence: identify your abilities and weaknesses together, accept them, build on them and do the best you can with what you have
  2. Accept Compliments: Many of us have difficulty accepting kindness from others but we all need to remember the positive in our lives when times get tough.
  3. Make Time for Family and Friends: These relationships need to be nurtured; if taken for granted they will dwindle and not be there to share life’s joys and sorrows
  4. Give and Accept Support: Friends and family relationships thrive when they are “put to the test.” Just as you seek help when you are having a tough time, a friend or family member might come to you in their time of need.
  5. Create a Meaningful Budget: Financial problems are big causes of stress, especially in today’s economy. Overspending on wants instead of needs can compound money worries. Writing down where your money is going helps you keep a closer eye on your finances.
  6. Volunteer: Being involved in community gives a sense of purpose and satisfaction that paid work cannot. Find a local organization where your life skills can be put to good use.
  7. Manage Stress: We all have stressors in our lives; however, learning how to deal with them when they threaten to overwhelm us will help to maintain our mental health.
  8. Find Strength in Numbers; sharing a problem with others who have had similar experiences may help you find a solution and will make you feel less isolated. Even talking about a situation with people who have not experienced what you are going through is a good way to gain outside perspective.
  9. Identify and Deal with Moods: We all need to find safe and constructive ways to express our feelings of anger, sadness, joy, and fear. Channeling our emotions creatively is a wonderful way to work off excess feelings. Writing, painting, dancing, crafting, and more are all good ways to help deal with emotions.
  10. Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself: Get to know who you are, what makes you really happy, and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.

Step 3: Practice Empathy

Empathy will go a long way to improve stigmas around mental illness. Here are some steps one can take to actively improve empathy:

  • Be curious about strangers. When given the opportunity, talk to someone with whom you are not acquainted, be inquisitive, lend an ear. For all you know, you could be the only person who took the time to care about that person in days, weeks, or months.
  • Listen, genuinely. When you talk to somebody, how much do you actually hear? Most likely, not enough. Make a conscious effort to take in what a person is saying and do not be afraid to open up about yourself.
  • Inspire change. Empathy typically seems to happen only on an individual level. However, mass action and social changes are often inspired through great empathy. Spread your ideas and beliefs through children, social networks, and more. You may be surprised by your influence and impact.

Take the Stamp Out Stigma Pledge

As a supporter to those who have a mental illness or substance use disorder, I understand the importance of recognizing the high prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders. I also know that when recognition is coupled with reeducation and understanding, health-seeking action can be taken. These actions lead to recovery, which is possible for everyone.

The Three R’s (recognize, reeducate and reduce) depend on each other to effectively Stamp Out Stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. This is what I, as an individual, charge myself to do—to fully Stamp Out Stigma and clear the path to health-seeking behavior. It begins with me.

 

 

Have you yourself ever received treatment for your mental health?

Yes
No

Poll Maker

 

Do you have a close friend or relative who is currently receiving treatment for their mental health?

Yes
No

surveymaker

Works Cited:

http://www.mhww.org/strategies.html

http://stampoutstigma.com/pledge.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-thompson/lets-end-the-stigma-of-mental-illness_b_3522563.html

http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201511/the-5-most-common-misconceptions-about-mental

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. April 30, 2017 by Taylor S Reply

    Excellent presentation! I love how your statics were interactive. The “Myth” and “Truth” section was also very powerful to me because one of my good friends has mental illness and through your presentation, I can get a glimpse of what she goes through and how I can help create an environment with stigma for her!

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