Getting past the stigma of mental health treatment

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we're celebrating by taking on some of the biggest topics and challenges in mental health. We're starting with one of the toughest barriers to care: mental health stigma. Read on for more information on stigma, how to identify it, and tips for getting over the hurdle to get the help you deserve.

It wasn’t too long ago that discussing mental health was frowned upon and considered taboo. 

Going to therapy or taking medication was seen as a “crutch,” or something that you needed to keep secret. Mental health struggles were treated as shameful issues that people should overcome on their own. In TV shows and movies, mental health issues were often treated as the butt of a joke.

Stigma around mental health has been around for a long time. You can even see examples of that attitude in shows and movies released less than a decade ago.

Luckily, it’s much easier to talk about mental health today than it was even a few years ago. 

Now, online telehealth services like Cerebral are making mental health treatment easier to access than ever. Not only are there entire social media accounts dedicated to discussing mental health, today’s movies and TV shows handle mental health topics with nuance and sensitivity. In other words, we’ve made a lot of progress.

Despite all this, though, there’s still a big part of the population that feels stigma around mental health issues. Stigma remains a real barrier to receiving mental health treatment, but all of us who raise awareness are working to change that.

Do You Feel It?

Over half of people diagnosed with mental health disorders don’t receive treatment, and a big reason for that is stigma. Stigma can cause people to feel ashamed about themselves for seeking help, or to think that they should just “get over” their mental health issues on their own. 

This can lead to long-term, damaging effects for people who are living with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental health disorders. 

You might be feeling the effects of stigma if you:

  • are reluctant to or refuse to seek treatment;
  • feel isolated, hopeless, or ashamed about yourself; 
  • receive fewer job or school opportunities; or
  • get harassed or bullied because of your symptoms

Countless people have found it difficult to consider seeking treatment because of the fear that they’ll be judged or discriminated against. 

Addressing Stigma 

Despite lingering stigma, the conversation around mental health issues is improving. And the Internet has been a valuable tool in pushing the conversation forward.

Because of the Internet, more people now have access to educational resources that break down outdated ideas about mental health. People who may have once felt isolated can now turn to online communities to find support for their mental health disorder. 

Online telehealth services have also been helpful in spreading awareness on mental health care. Cerebral’s online mental health care model provides ways for people to seek therapy and medication counseling discreetly and comfortably, while also providing educational resources on mental health. In addition, most research shows that there’s no difference in quality between online versus in-person care.

5 Tips for Reducing Stigma and Spreading Awareness 

Spreading awareness of the realities of mental health care is one of the most effective ways to reduce the stigma towards mental health.

1. Speak out and share stories. When people are exposed to mental health topics and stories, they’re less likely to believe outdated stereotypes or assumptions about mental health.

Knowing or interacting with someone living with a mental health disorder can make the topic more relatable. It’s easy for people to believe outdated ideas when they aren’t exposed to it much in their daily life. 

Individuals who feel comfortable can start by speaking out and sharing their own stories and experiences with mental health. Celebrities and public figures who share their own struggles with mental health are also helping remove the stigma against mental health.

If you’re comfortable speaking about mental health, we encourage you to share your story with others. Alternatively, if you aren’t comfortable with it, listen to others who are. Feel their support and connection, and know that you are not alone.

2. Find educational resources. Learn about the facts and realities of mental health disorders, and share them with others. There are countless resources to educate yourself and others on mental health topics, including Cerebral’s blog and Instagram. You can use the information to navigate conversations on mental health and dispel any inaccurate information you hear. 

Other educational resources on mental health can be found here:

3. Be compassionate. Reserve judgement on people who are living with mental health disorders. Being compassionate and empathetic goes a long way to reducing the stigma and allowing people to feel comfortable about opening up and seeking treatment. Compassion can ultimately lead to saving lives.

4. Be conscientious of your words. This goes hand-in-hand with being compassionate. Using words like crazy, psychotic, insane, or anything similar to insult someone adds to the stigma of mental health. Telling someone to “suck it up” when they open up about their mental health can prevent them from seeking help. The same applies to phrases like “It could be worse!” or “Other people have it worse than you do.” These words can invalidate someone’s experience and make it hard for them to seek help.

5. Remember that mental health is as important as physical health. People are naturally inclined to take physical health seriously because it’s something you can visibly see. Since mental health disorders aren’t usually visible, people are less likely to take it as seriously. People might tell you to “get over it,” or to just “stop being sad.” 

However, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Going to therapy regularly is just as important as going to the gym. Seeing a doctor when you’re feeling symptoms of depression or anxiety is just as important as seeing a doctor when your leg is broken.

Normalizing mental health treatment can save countless lives in the long run. 

Here at Cerebral, we couldn’t be more pleased that the month of May is dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and erasing the stigma that has lasted for generations.

While the conversation about mental health is improving every day, there is still a long way to go. Being part of the solution may look different for everyone, but these tips will help pave the road for a brighter future for mental health.

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!

Medically reviewed by: David Mou, MD, MBA

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  • If you are in emotional distress, here are some resources for immediate help:

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
    Call 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line:
    Text Home to 741-741
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