Reducing the stigma of mental illness among adolescents


Unfortunately, stigma continues to be an issue when it comes to teens and perceptions about mental health. The Journal of Nursing Management has published an article stating that more improved and thorough testing is required to improve such stigmas. The research also states that millions of adolescents do not receive treatment because of the stigma surrounding certain disorders. One author argues that while many health disorders can first be noticed during the teenage years, it is important to eliminate a number of misconceptions.

Related findings

Mental health stigma tends to have a number of negative effects on young people. For instance, there is both self-stigma and public stigma. Self-stigma arises as a result of internalizing negative emotions that stem from public stigma, which is how one feels about how they are viewed by others because of a disorder. Both can lead to a number of personal difficulties due to stereotyping or otherwise judgmental behavior. There is also the danger of parent stigma, where parents will choose to neglect or ignore certain symptoms. This can be because they are embarrassed or shamed, therefore not wanting a medical professional to be involved. Some simply cannot accept that their child has a problem.

It has been demonstrated that mental health stigma will cause setbacks in at least one area of teens’ livelihood. One study found that among teens taking medication, nine out of 10 dealt with shame, secrecy or lack of sociability. Unfortunately, these stressors can cause a young person to be more prone to substance abuse, alcoholism, homicide and suicide. The media don’t always portray mental illness accurately and may overdramatize undesirable symptoms to further dramatize a story. Another concern is that a number of health care providers will only cover so much when it comes to mental health symptoms, as opposed to the wider range usually offered for physical health.

Most common myths

There are a number of faulty beliefs related to health disorders that have persisted over time, despite simply not being true. For instance, there is the belief that schizophrenics are dangerous and violent, which in reality is false for most patients. A number of people also believe that mental disorders are a result of poor environmental circumstances. In reality, a number of conditions have been shown to have a genetic or hereditary cause.

There are also many who believe depression is inevitable in older adults and yet, this is not the case. In the scenario where depression does occur, many patients will go undiagnosed. Those who believe that teens do not suffer from anxiety or depression, and just dismiss it as being hormonal or teenage moodiness, are also wrong. There are also many who believe that electroconvulsive therapy is an inhumane form of treatment. However, it has proved helpful for patients in extreme situations where depression was not otherwise treatable.

Reducing mental health stigma

There are a number of different solutions that may assist in helping to reduce stigma overall. For example, there needs to be improved education in the school system when it comes to teaching about mental disorders and validating their existence. Teens spend much of their time in school and often compare themselves to their peers. By helping adolescents increase their understanding of those with symptoms, many will know how to be better prepared in certain situations.

Those seeking to be more mindful about how mental health issues are perceived can do their part in the word choice they use. Accurate and appropriate terminology should be used, while avoiding words that are outdated, inaccurate or insensitive. It is preferable to use the expression “a person with bipolar disorder,” for example. Using vocabulary such as “crazy” to describe someone is never appropriate or acceptable.

When public speaking engagements are held to promote diversity, the topic of mental health should also be included. There is the option of those with disorders or others close to them deciding to become involved in mental health advocacy as well. Those afflicted with a mental condition should reach out to others and not isolate themselves socially. This will often only make symptoms worse than they already are.

Though advocates and other supporters can help diminish the stigma associated with mental health, it will take more than this to properly change certain views in society. By modifying the Diagnostic Statistical Manual over the years and including more research and accuracy, we have come a long way. White River Academy aims to increase awareness of different mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. To find out more information on how to get a loved one the necessary treatment for a mental illness, please contact us at 866-520-0905.

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