Those who struggle with addiction and mental health problems exist among everyone else in large numbers. They hold jobs, raise families, manage responsibilities and form relationships like everyone else. It is estimated that nearly one third of North American society has struggled with addiction or mental health issues at some point in their lives. However, North American society has the tendency to place stigmas on these individuals, whether consciously or unconsciously, that have the effect of making them feel like second-class citizens. In the media and in pop culture, people with addictions and mental health issues are portrayed as weak, dysfunctional, threatening, incapable, lazy and odd. It is very important that these stigmas are put to rest, as they are marginalizing and damaging to people who have to live with these disorders.
In our society, passing judgment on people who are addicted or struggle with mental health problems is justified. People who are ignorant of these disorders hold the people afflicted with them entirely responsible for their condition. They are not educated about the psychological, environmental, behavioral and biological reasons behind mental disorders, so they simply assume that people afflicted with these disorders are lesser than they are. The enforcement of this stigma actually serves to worsen these disorders. The best thing for people struggling with a disorder, who are already in a confused and fragile emotional state, is encouragement. When they are met with discouragement, it is a setback and an obstacle for them.
Ostracizing people with addiction and mental health disorders is also largely justified. They often are turned into a joke in social media or pop culture, and are relentlessly made fun of. Or, they are treated like they carry a contagious disease and are avoided completely. This treatment is also quite malicious and hurtful. Living with addiction or a mental disorders is very challenging, and it takes incredible effort on the part of the person afflicted to change. Society needs to find a way to replace criticism with compassion and judgment with tolerance. Anyone making an effort to improve their lives deserves respect and encouragement.