Mental health problems are becoming more widespread today. Previously, there was a tremendous stigma associated with mental health problems, and seeking help from a mental health professional was considered shameful for their status. The underutilization of mental health services is especially troubling since the lifetime prevalence rate of mild illness has been estimated to be as high as 50% among the general population (Jorm,2000). I think, presently there have been significant improvements in people’s attitudes towards mentally ill people. But, still, society holds stereotypes regarding these people, which is somewhat difficult to eliminate all of a sudden.
Just think, suppose any of our family members have a mental health problem. What would be our view on that person? even if we believe we will be accepting them as they are, there would be a stigma within us, deeply rooted, that makes us view them as strange or weak. The stigma lives in the shadow of people, along with fear, lack of awareness and simple ignorance. Its complexities must be taken down and separated. So that we can begin over and reset our thoughts on mental health and therapy.
There is a social stigma associated with seeking mental health services, that is, the belief that someone seeking psychological help is unpleasant or socially unacceptable. The internalization of this social stigma may lead to the perception that if one requires professional care or sees herself/himself as inferior, this is referred to as self-stigma. Many individuals are hesitant to seek professional psychological help when they need it. As per previous literature, some of the factors contributing to an individual’s reluctance to seek psychological services are:
- Fear of emotional disclosure
- Desire to avoid experiencing painful feelings
- Perceived social support
Individuals with a social support system that encourages them to seek psychological help are more likely to seek counselling than those with a social network that discourages them from getting help. Other factors that have been associated with the decision to seek professional psychological help include:
But presently, the online platform for receiving mental health care is also growing. The two biggest financial obstacles that prevent people from seeking mental health care are high costs and lack of insurance options with adequate coverage
- Concern for monetary cost
- Education level
- Ethnicity & age
- Demographic variables (gender & socio-economic status)
Many rural areas or communities may not be able to access services when needed. Studies have shown that women have a more favourable attitude to seek professional psychological help when needed.
Stigma as a barrier to mental health care
Stigma is the most frequently cited reason why people do not seek professional mental health treatment. This stigma is characterized by worry, mistrust, prejudice and occasionally violence against the mentally ill, and this stigmatization is pervasive in people of all ages.
There are mainly two types of stigma: social stigma and self-stigma. A statement demonstrating social stigma is “all people with mental illness are dangerous”. Previous study has shown that people attempt to hide psychological distress and delay treatment in order to decrease the perceived consequence linked with the social stigma. Self-stigma is defined as a decrease in an individual’s self-esteem or self-worth as a result of that individual’s identification as requiring mental health care.
“I have a mental health problem, therefore I am incompetent”, is an example of self-stigma. Being labelled mentally ill or being identified as a person in therapy can lead to low self-esteem.
How to navigate through these challenges
- More people may receive help for psychological distress and reduce mental health care stigma consequences if society is educated about mental health. This includes understanding how to seek help and what to expect from treatments like therapy.
- Programs that try to minimize stigma frequently help reduce attitudes and behaviours that may be barriers to getting mental health services, as well as increase awareness about mental health services.
- Educating potential clients about mental health issues and services, as well as normalizing and explaining common symptoms, can be an effective way to reduce self-stigma and improve motivation to seek help. People who self-stigmatize tend to report little personal empowerment in terms of treatment. This education promotes empowerment and helps confront self-stigma.
- Making brochures (offline & online) and alerting society about mental health issues and associated treatments such
as therapy would be advantageous.
- In case of affordability issues, depending on where you live, there might be either community or government-funded mental health centres that make affordable health care. These health centres are oftentimes free for eligible individuals or have low-cost fees.
Mental health care for a variety of mental health issues frequently results in a more positive self-image and more rewarding connections with friends and members of one’s community. Mental health is a crucial aspect of our lives since it influences how we perceive ourselves and others. If many people seek physical health services, then why don’t we have the courage to seek mental health services? Remember, “Mental health is our human right”.
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