Today’s blog post comes to us from Lindsay Ford of Spectrum, United States partner and chair of GLOBALHealthPR.
Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. On this day, people join to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. Organizations like the World Health Organization invest resources to develop technical and communication materials to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental illness.
One in four Americans suffers from mental health disorder each year. A mental illness is a disorder that causes mild to severe disruption in thinking, perception and/or behavior and includes anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia, dementia and eating disorders. Just like chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, mental disorders are medical conditions – if left untreated, they can impair the ability for one to cope with life’s demanding daily tasks. Stigma associated with mental health disorders is one crucial element preventing treatable individuals from seeking care.
Is media responsible for stigma surrounding mental health?
There are many misconceptions about individuals suffering from mental illness. Though some media outlets strive to minimize stigma surrounding mental health, often news sources jump to highlight mental illness in the wake of violent crimes. Subsequently, mental illness is linked to a stereotype of violent behavior which leads to public fear, prejudice and discrimination toward individuals who may be struggling with a mental health problem.
Ironically, media is our best hope for eliminating stigma surrounding mental health. With the power to educate and influence public opinion, media can begin the movement against mental illness stigma.
How can I help?
On World Mental Health Day, and every day, join in the effort to raise mental health awareness and to combat stigma. To get started, here are some tips from Mental Health America:
- Support efforts in your community to help people with mental illness secure housing and employment.
- Share your experience to encourage others to seek help.
- Respond to false statements about mental illness with facts and accurate information to change misconceptions about mental health disorders. For example:
- Myth: Mentally ill persons are inherently dangerous.
- Fact: Most people with mental illness are not violent.