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Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Health: 5 Ways to Combat Stigma While Pursuing Treatment

Whether you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or a specific phobia, taking back control can be hard. Mental health problems create huge challenges, including a lack of focus and lethargy, often the first hurdle to seeking treatment.


One added barrier is mental health stigma. Mental health is a vital component of overall well-being, yet it remains one of the most stigmatized topics in society — something we’re rarely able to discuss around anyone but our closest friends, if at all. This stigmatization means that many suffer alone: colleagues, family members and acquaintances remain blissfully unaware of their troubles, unable to help and sometimes even compounding the problem.  


If you suffer from anxiety or depression, stigma can even prevent you from seeking treatment. It may stop you from seeing a therapist or building a support network. While you should never feel the responsibility of challenging mental health stigma rests on your shoulders, understanding how to combat it could be a step towards treatment.



Understanding Mental Health Stigma


Stigma refers to negative attitudes and beliefs that society holds towards a particular group, in this case, individuals with mental health conditions. These attitudes can manifest in various ways, including discrimination, prejudice, and social exclusion. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health persists despite increased awareness and efforts to promote acceptance.


While there is a stigma attached to many disabilities across society, mental health is often hidden. This allows mental health stigma to proliferate: it silences those who suffer and reproduces a stereotype that mental illness is shameful.


Around 40% of people with serious mental illness miss out on vital treatment, partly due to the stigma surrounding accessing therapy or other forms of treatment.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stigma and discrimination are significant barriers to mental health care access globally.


Combatting Mental Health Stigma:


You can’t combat stigma alone: addressing mental health stigma requires a collective effort from individuals, communities, and institutions. If you’re suffering from mental health problems, you shouldn’t put any additional pressure on yourself to combat stigma. However, understanding mental health stigma and having strategies to combat it can help you pursue treatment. Here are some practical tips for overcoming the stigma of mental health while pursuing treatment:


  1. Educate Yourself and Others:


Education is a powerful tool for challenging misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding mental health. Take the time to educate yourself about different mental health conditions, their symptoms, and available treatments. Share this knowledge with others to foster understanding and compassion.


  1. Speak Up:


Don't be afraid to speak openly about your experiences with mental health. If you feel comfortable, sharing personal stories helps break down barriers and humanizes the issue. Whether you’re in a bar with friends or the breakroom at work, opening up about your own mental health challenges can inspire others to do the same.


  1. Challenge Stereotypes:


Challenge stereotypes and misinformation whenever you encounter them. Whether it's in conversations with friends and family or on social media, be willing to correct misconceptions about mental health. Encourage others to examine their beliefs and attitudes towards mental illness, undermine the idea that mental illness is a weakness or character defect and humanize mental health if you’re comfortable talking about your experiences.


  1. Seek Support:


Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can provide invaluable encouragement and validation. A support network not only helps you pursue treatment and improve your mental health but can assist others in opening up about their personal struggles. Additionally, consider seeking professional support from therapists or counsellors who can help you navigate the challenges of stigma and treatment.


  1. Advocate for Change:


Advocacy plays a crucial role in challenging systemic barriers and promoting mental health awareness. Get involved in advocacy efforts within your community or support organizations that work to combat stigma and improve access to mental health care. Start examining your workplace or college and identify how people with mental health could be better supported. By raising your voice, you contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with mental health conditions.


Treatment Without Stigma: The Power of oVRcome


oVRcome packages the gold standard treatment for specific phobias and anxiety disorders into a self-guided course available in the comfort of your own home. Our app-based treatment program is clinically proven to reduce the symptoms of phobia and provides a stigma-free route to good mental health.


It’s our mission to make mental health treatment more accessible than ever. All you need is a smartphone and an internet connection and you can start a course of psychotherapy and virtual reality exposure therapy today.


Final Thoughts


Overcoming the stigma of mental health is essential for promoting acceptance, understanding, and access to treatment. By educating ourselves and others, speaking up, challenging stereotypes, seeking support, and advocating for change, we can collectively combat stigma while pursuing our journey towards mental health and well-being.


Remember, you are not alone, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Let's work together to create a world where everyone feels empowered to prioritize their mental health without fear of judgment or discrimination.


Ready to start on your journey? Take our free phobia test to see if oVRcome can help you.


References


  1. Pescosolido BA, Halpern-Manners A, Luo L, Perry B. Trends in Public Stigma of Mental Illness in the US, 1996-2018. JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Dec 1;4(12):e2140202. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.40202. PMID: 34932103; PMCID: PMC8693212.


  1. Lacey, C., Frampton, C., & Beaglehole, B. (2022). OVRcome – Self-guided virtual reality for specific phobias: A randomised controlled trial. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1177/00048674221110779

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