Stereotypes stop people from getting help

Newtown, flooding, the plight of our military members, the flu, unemployment, foreclosures and high prices have been just a few of our personal and community stressors and heartbreaks during the past few years. While stress alone doesn’t cause mental illness, it can trigger the onset in predisposed individuals and worsen the symptoms of those who are affected already. For this reason, I believe it’s way past time for all of our families, friends and neighbors to seriously discuss mental health.

Mental health should be talked about in the open, like we would about other kinds of health and medical conditions. Making it a commonplace topic can go a long way in helping people feel uninhibited about seeking assistance and treatment. How we communicate our beliefs and feelings about mental health conditions and the people who have them affects our individual approachability. Wouldn’t it be terrible if your loved ones and friends felt unable to go to you for help? Please let your language, attitudes and actions tell them that they are safe in doing so. As we know from national studies, most individuals will wait one year or more from the onset and initial symptoms of mental illness before accessing treatment. Would we wait one year if we had a broken arm? Much of the delay in reaching out for services is due to stigma.

Please consider the media that you pay attention to. Too many movies and TV programs perpetuate the myth that most violent crimes are committed by those with mental illnesses. The truth is that illegal drugs and alcohol abuse are the most common denominators in deciphering the root cause of most of the violence perpetuated in our country. A person with a severe mental health condition is far more likely to be the victim of an aggressive act than be the perpetrator. Before we can make any lasting and meaningful changes regarding personal and community health and safety, we need to finally do away with these unhelpful attitudes and stereotypes.


Community educator

Mental Health Association in Fulton and Montgomery Counties

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