Stigma is an issue in which a person is devalued, rejected, or excluded based on factors like their social status or a health-related condition.
Essentially, a stigma is a perceived negative attribute that causes people to think differently or less of an individual. Unfortunately, this means that people who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse not only have to deal with the consequences of their disease, but they also have to deal with the perceptions of others who may think less of them because they have a disease.
With this, it’s important to realize that people who deal with substance abuse should not be stigmatized and should receive love and support.
Why Stigma Is an Issue
There are many negative consequences that are a result of the stigma of addiction and mental illness. Some of the issues that cause people to not reach out for help or treatment are:
- Many people will not come in for treatment. Individuals suffering from addiction, anxiety, depression, or some other mental or behavioral issue are less likely to enroll in a drug rehab program if they feel like they are being judged or looked down on for seeking help.
- People will have a hard time connecting with others socially. If an individual believes that they are less than, they will have a harder time connecting with others and being comfortable around them.
- Mental illness and addiction stigma also reduce the availability and accessibility of treatment because it discourages people from educating themselves on these diseases as a result of fear, prejudice, or judgment.
- People suffer from low self-esteem and can begin to adopt a self-stigma which becomes more harmful to individuals.
- Overall, substance abuse issues and mental illness will not improve due to stigmatization.
How to Reduce Mental Illness and Addiction Stigma
Strategies to clear the air of stigma may vary on different aspects like community, family, and population, but they should all include these basic principles:
- Education: The more people learn about mental illness, the abuse of substances, what causes it, and how to prevent it, the less likely they are to fear those issues or adopt negative attitudes about treatment.
- Awareness: Developing awareness of substance abuse and mental illness is key to reducing stigma because it encourages people to think twice before they speak or act on the basis of an unsupported belief.
- Support: Supporting friends and family members suffering from addiction and mental illness is another way to get rid of the stigma. It’s best to treat them with respect and encourage their efforts to seek treatment or enroll in drug and alcohol rehab.
- Inclusiveness: Individuals with substance abuse problems and mental illness should be given the same opportunities as others who do not struggle with those things. Overall, families and communities should actively fight discrimination against those who are living with addiction and mental illness to effectively reduce stigma.
If you or anyone you know is struggling to get help for a substance abuse problem, please contact Overland IOP today.