A Breakdown of the 7 Types of Mental Health Stigmas

It’s more likely than not that you either know someone with depression, have had or do have depression, or think you might have depression. It affects millions of people, but somehow there is still a massive stigma that deems the diagnosis unserious by some. If you have depression and you have told someone about it- we’re sure you know what we mean. “Have you tried exercising?” Or “You should find a hobby.” Yikes.

But this is a common response to hearing a loved one’s mental health diagnosis, especially depression. Here are the main reasons why people may react this way:

We Fear the Unknown

Depression is a mental health condition that is often invisible. Although depression can show physical symptoms, it’s more often the symptoms are less obvious and because of that when people open up about their depression, others may find it hard to empathize. It’s difficult for people to understand that someone who does not look sick or is not showing obvious tangible symptoms is actually really struggling. Unfortunately for most people, the unknown is a territory they have trouble charting into and this feeds into the common mental health stigmas and misconceptions.

Misconceptions and Stereotypes

The oversimplification and glamorizing of depression and mental health in general in the media, pop culture, and even cultural beliefs also contribute to depression’s stigmas. These stereotypes tend to oversimplify the condition and give a false picture of the severity. This is important to note because when someone shares their struggle with clinical depression, it can perpetuate the belief that individuals with this diagnosis don’t have it that bad.

Our society can be ignorant about the true severity and meaning of depression and without the motivation to learn more about it, people with depression might feel dismissed, unsupported and extremely hesitant to try clinical depression treatments that would otherwise offer significant benefits.

Cultural and Social Factors

Our society has actually made great progress in making the conversation around mental health much more open compared to previous generations. In the past, it was not uncommon for people with mental health conditions to be sent away or even just kept home so others would not be aware of their condition. Some may read that now and say they actually feel they are treated quite similarly now. In some cultures, that treatment still rings true. Societies that prioritize constant resilience and strength may be discouraging for those individuals suffering to want to ask for help.

In our present day society, it is also not uncommon for people’s deep-rooted beliefs stemming from how they were raised, negative connotations or experiences to showing their emotions, or simply exposure to certain media (movies, tv shows, video games, social media), for people to see their mental health struggles as a sign of weakness.

Mental Health Stigmas are Universal

Due to these and numerous other factors, research has shown stigmas of mental disorders tend to be universal across societies and cultures. This transcends our own society and is much more complex than it may appear. Here are the main types of stigmas that can tie into a depression diagnosis:

1. Public

These are the negative beliefs that the general population holds that can turn into fear or overall avoidance. This type of stigma can lead to individuals with depression to experience social isolation, employment or housing discrimination, and hesitancy to reach out for help due to fear of judgment or rejection.

2. Self

This occurs when individuals with depression internalize the negative stereotypes and beliefs associated with their condition. This behavior can lead to low self-esteem and shame. Self-stigma prevents people from seeking help due to the fear of being perceived as being flawed or weak.

3. Perceived

Individuals who experience this stigma tend to experience anxiety surrounding the experience of being stigmatized. Even if they don’t actually experience it, the anticipation of it alone leads to the same outcomes as if they did – social isolation and reluctance to seek help.

4. Label

This is when you feel like you are being judged or defined by your mental health diagnosis rather than being viewed as a person. In our view: a depressed person vs. a person with depression. It seems like a subtle difference, but it is a strong reinforcement to the individual with depression and everyone around them that they are their depression.

5. Structural

These are systemic barriers and inequalities that lead to discrimination for those with a mental health condition. They could be in policies, laws, or institutional practices that further enforce a stigma that limits opportunities for recovery.

6. Associative

This is also known as a family or caregiver stigma. It is the discrimination experienced by your loved ones. This can be close family, your partner, or any caregiver who have experienced similar things we have mentioned above which creates a barrier for people to want to work in the field.

The Impact of Stigmas on Help Seeking Behavior

We’ve discussed briefly throughout on how these stigmas impact one’s ability to seek help, but it truly is an impact that cannot be ignored. The seven types of stigmas all reinforce each other to create very complex barriers to recovery and wellbeing. Depression affects all areas of your life – professional, social, and personal, so imagine experiencing stigmas from all angles? How people who care about you view you is crucial to battling mental illness. With this many stigmas, an individual can quickly lose hope and willingness to seek treatment or mental health services in Bellingham, WA. This reluctance to seek help can worsen symptoms and one’s condition greatly.

Combatting Stigmas

Educating and increasing public awareness about the realities of depression and treatments available can help beat these common stigmas. We are not naive that it can be exhausting to combat these stigmas while dealing with depression, or, frankly feel like it is not your job to do so. But as we mentioned above, a lot of people are functioning on ignorance. If we don’t teach them, who will? Having a strong support system around you or if you are in a good place with your mental health, getting the word out will feel empowering and will make a difference.

By encouraging empathy and understanding, you can break down these stigmas one by one. If people can listen without judgment and offer validation to those affected by depression, all of us can have a new level of compassion for one another. Hopefully, you can feel empowered to seek help and receive treatments to help you thrive or encourage a loved one who maybe didn’t feel they could before.

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”