Reducing the stigma: What it really means- Dean - WI

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Published on January 02, 2018

Reducing the stigma: What it really means

When reading or talking about mental health issues, you often hear about the need for stigma to be eliminated. But what exactly is stigma? And how can it have an influence on someone’s well-being? SSM Health child psychiatrist Dr. Bhawani Ballamudi is helping us understand stigma.  

Stigma explained

Stigma is technically defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person. A stigmatized trait sets someone apart from other people. They become isolated because friends, colleagues or family members might look down on them for something that is out of their control.   

“This is especially troubling as it relates to mental health,” says Dr. Ballamudi. “If someone is struggling with something like depression or anxiety, it is so unfortunate when other people view that person as the problem rather than viewing the condition as the problem.”

Many people who live with mental illness have, at some point, been blamed for their condition. Symptoms are often regarded as things that can simply go away if a person just “tried a little harder.” Therefore, if stigma persists, it can lead to powerful feelings of personal shame and guilt.

“It can be difficult to recover in situations like this,” adds Dr. Ballamudi. “Those suffering are essentially engaged in at least three battles – against their own shame, against public perception, and against the condition itself.”  

How it delays a solution

Not only does stigma put more pressure and stress on someone to “be normal,” it might also delay them from seeking help. Stigma causes some people to second-guess themselves when reflecting on whether they should talk to a trusted relative, or a professional. They might deny symptoms or delay treatment while, in the meantime, an issue may continue or even get worse.

What we’re left with is a part of the population that is underserved. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says even though most people can be successfully treated, less than half of the adults in the U.S. who need services get the help they need. NAMI adds that the average delay between the onset of symptoms and intervention is 8-10 years.

“These issues are taken lightly even though they are as harmful as chronic physical illness,” contends Dr. Ballamudi. “For example, look at the misery depression can cause a person, and it can start when they’re young and continue through the prime of their life.”

Ending the stigma

So how do we take a step towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental health? Here are three goals to strive for.

  1. Educate yourself and others – Understanding mental health isn’t just about identifying symptoms or knowing the names of conditions. It’s also about dispelling false ideas about mental health conditions and sharing that information with those around you.
  2. Set an example – This may be in the form of talking openly about mental health, or pointing out the equality between mental and physical health.
  3. Show compassion for those struggling – Getting to know a person and treating them with kindness will not only help the individual, but might set a trend with those around you.

By reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness we can pave the way for earlier interventions for young people with mental health issues. Countless studies have shown that timely treatment can not only prevent and/or reduce the progress of a mental illness, but can also improve a young person’s mental and physical health, community involvement and quality-of-life far into the future.

Time for Kids & Channel 3

We are proud to partner with WISC-TV Channel 3 on this important initiative.

Visit the Time for Kids section on channel3000.com for more resources on keeping kids healthy!

Related Services

Looking for assistance with your diet and eating habits? Check out the services of:

Mental Health Services

Comprehensive Weight Management Program

Pediatric Dietitian Services

Nutrition Services

Diabetes Management

Living Healthy Program - For Dean Health Plan members

Healthy Partners Program - For Dean Health Plan members

Time for Kids in the News

Recent videos and news articles about Time for Kids, as covered by the media.

Back-to-school mental health phone bank takes calls, WISC-TV, August 31, 2017

Talking about suicide: It's time to step outside your comfort zone, channel3000.com, August 10, 2017

Mom continues son's story to end stigma of mental illness, WISC-TV, July 21, 2017

Striking summer balance: Maintaining healthy schedule for kids, WISC-TV, June 29, 2017

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