Stigma Associated with Mental Illnesses

In the year 2010, there is still great stigma associated with mental illnesses. We have all probably heard people with mental illness labeled as “psycho” and mental illness remains the butt of jokes in popular culture. “Negative portrayals of people with mental illnesses fuel fear and mistrust and reinforce distorted perceptions,” and people sometimes associate mental illness with laziness or weakness. (Mayo Clinic, n.d)

Three General Categories of Sources of Stigma

Public stigma: The notion that a person will be perceived as weak, treated differently, or blamed for their problem, if he or she seeks help.

Self-Stigma: The person may actually feel weak, ashamed, and/or embarrassed.

Structural Stigma: Individuals with chronic symptoms of PTSD may believe that their careers will suffer if they take advantage of available psychological services.

Harmful Effects of Stigma.

With the current stigma attached to PTSD and other mental illnesses, those who fear being stereotyped, even if able may not seek out appropriate care. For some, living with the stigma may even be worse than living with the illness itself.

Some of the harmful effects of stigma include:

- Trying to pretend that nothing is wrong (pretending to be normal),
- Refusal to seek treatment,
- Rejection by family and friends,
- Work problems, insensitivity, or discrimination,
- Difficulty finding housing,
- Being subjected to physical violence or harassment, and
- Inadequate health insurance coverage for mental impairments or illnesses.

Health Care

There is little argument that the cost of medical and mental health care in the United States is at an all time high. This means that those without health care insurance simply cannot afford treatment or treatment-related medications. For those with health care insurance, treatment and medications still may not be an option as qualified providers may be limited and co-pays for treatment and related medications may be too costly.

The Addiction Technology Transfer Center Office, reports “[people] with PTSD have among the highest rates of healthcare service use. Costs include psychiatric and non-psychiatric medical treatment costs, indirect workplace costs, mortality costs, and prescription drug costs.” With the high costs associated with treating mental illnesses, even those who seek treatment may not be able to afford appropriate, ongoing care.