Many stereotypes surround mental health disorders. Inaccurate displays of symptoms through media and films have further perpetuated a misunderstanding of these disorders. Mental health stereotypes also cause people to avoid seeking help or feel ashamed about their diagnosis. Overcoming stereotypes around mental health is necessary for creating a safer environment for people to share their stories and encourage others to get help.
What Are the Harmful Effects of Stereotypes?
Stereotypes are harmful beliefs that society has about a particular subject. Stereotypes of mental health can have detrimental effects for those who have mental health disorders, including:
- Internalizing negative beliefs. Unkind or offensive words can shape stereotypes. These words and actions can cause someone with a mental health disorder to form a negative self-perception, leading to depression, anxiety, and even self-harm.
- Isolation and alienation. People with mental health disorders may feel ashamed of their illness, and such feelings could cause someone to isolate themselves from others for fear of being judged. Isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness that manifest into depression or anxiety. Family members, friends, and even society can often alienate those with severe mental illnesses because they don't understand how to treat someone with a mental illness.
- Lack of criminal justice. Stereotypes have created an association between mental health disorders and violence. However, this is not true. Individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence and trauma. Still, the stereotypes could create a lack of justice and improper treatment of those with a mental illness.
- Substance use. Substance use disorder is the most common co-occurring disorder for individuals with a mental health disorder. Individuals use substances as a coping mechanism to manage the symptoms of their disorder. They also use substances to help them deal with negative self-beliefs due to stereotypes. Substances do not provide any substantial or lasting relief. Heavy alcohol use can worsen anxiety and depressive symptoms and cause substance-induced psychosis.
How to Overcome Mental Health Stereotypes
Overcoming the stereotypes and putting health first can be a difficult task. It requires work and seeking good resources. Here are five ways that an individual can begin working to overcome the stigmas surrounding their mental health.
- Educate Yourself and Others: Taking the time to research and read about mental health disorders helps individuals and their loved ones better understand their mental health disorders. Some mental health clinics or community centers offer classes that educate about mental health disorders.
- Create Healthy Conversations About Mental Health: The lack of clear conversations about mental health also contributes to stereotypes. Therefore, having healthy conversations about mental health topics will raise awareness. Remember, conversations require the willingness to listen to understand, and share experiences with others. They also require the ability to reserve judgment, and doing so will help cultivate a healthy and comfortable space for the conversation to grow.
- Become a Mental Health Advocate: Parents and their teens can become mental health advocates. Mental health advocates help provide more resources, information, and awareness about mental health disorders. An individual can become an advocate by seeking volunteer opportunities at mental health centers or clinics. They can also attend group meetings and become mentors for others managing a mental health disorder. One could also share your their through social media outlets. Sharing personal stories or taking speaking positions also helps raise awareness and strengthen the community, providing more opportunities to learn about mental health.
- Make Sure That You Are Taking Care of Your Mental Health: Taking care of mental health requires individuals to advocate for themselves and pursue resources dedicated to managing mental health. Stereotypes can cause people to neglect their self-care needs due to the fear of acknowledging they have an illness. Therefore, staying active in treatment plans and taking appropriate medication will help manage mental health.
- Don't Let Stereotypes Bring Self-doubt or Shame: Society is not solely responsible for creating stereotypes; stereotypes can continue to evolve internally. Forming negative thoughts about a particular mental health disorder cultivates a negative self-perception and shame. Self-stigma happens when an individual repeatedly faces discrimination concerning their mental health disorder. Soon they might start to view their mental health disorder negatively.
Overcoming mental health stereotypes requires grace and compassion. Seeking education and advocating for oneself helps society learn that what a person is dealing with is not a defect. Overcoming the stereotypes requires continued treatment, building healthy relationships, and becoming more confident in managing the disorder. Doing so will improve self-esteem. It all begins with taking action to get help.
Although mental health disorders face many stereotypes in society, resources are available that offer professional knowledge on how to treat them. At Clearkfork Academy, we offer a space for teenage boys to overcome stereotypes and learn about their mental health and substance use disorders. We strive to provide a comfortable place where teens no longer have to suffer in silence. Our group and family programs offer the support necessary to learn about ways to discuss and manage the symptoms related to mental health and substance use disorders. With us, your teen will develop the confidence and voice to recognize that they are not their disorders. They will also build strong support networks with other peers that share similar experiences. The first step to recovery is acknowledging that you need help and taking appropriate action to get help. To learn more about our programs, reach out to Clearfork Academy today by calling (817) 259-2597.