The Need to Change Social Stigmas

change social stigmasThe need to change social stigmas around addiction and mental disorder is dire. One in three people lives with either of these conditions, and the avoidance of the matter in our culture is making the situation worse, not better. Addiction and mental disorder make it nearly impossible for a person to feel secure in anything they experience. Their feelings of instability make functioning like everyone else incredibly difficult, but they still try to very regularly. A majority of people who are struggling with a mental disorder or an addiction are not receiving treatment for it, either because they do not know what is available to them or because they do not want to appear weak. This attempt to get by in the world without the mental health that is necessary to cope with it makes a person very susceptible to setbacks and hardships. The last thing this person needs is to be labeled as useless, damaged, dysfunctional or a throw away person. Being exposed to opinions like this can only make things worse.
If we were to stop and question our judgmental behavior, we would understand just how detrimental stigmatizing a person with addiction or a mental disorder is. It is wrong to place judgment on anyone, but when it is done to a person who is already insecure and unstable, recovering from the judgment is going to be much more difficult. Addicts and people with mental disorders are commonly high functioning and intelligent. Even those who are in denial are aware at some level of how different they are from other people. To be aware of your condition is to doubt your own perception frequently, and ignorant criticisms of a person who does not have the self esteem to deflect such estimations is likely to believe them. Intolerance is alive and well within our culture, and many of us are accustomed to thoughtlessly passing judgment or speaking negatively about someone we do not understand. It is time we take care not to pass judgment on people with addictions and mental disorders. We do a disservice to them and to ourselves by not lending compassion to the situation.

The Social Stigmas Around Addiction and Mental Disorders

negative social stigmasAddictions and mental disorders are hard enough to cope with. Adding a stigmatization on top of them only makes functioning harder for those who are struggling with either of these illnesses. Yet, a vast majority of people who are struggling with these conditions have claimed that they feel stigmatized by peers, family, coworkers, social circles and society at large. It cannot be denied that stigmatization has a harmful effect on people, particularly when it has to do with a mental health issue. When someone who is struggling to control an addiction or a mental disorder feels stigmatized, stereotyped or judged, it only serves to make their condition worse because their condition is essentially an inability to cope. We must change the way we assess and speak about people with disorders and addictions in order to help relieve them of their suffering.
The stigmas that addicts and people with mental disorders bare are ones that many people are already aware of. Addicts get labeled as bums, helpless, out of control, having no self control, degenerates and detriments to society. People with mental disorders get labeled as crazy, psychotic, mentally disturbed, dysfunctional and not suitable to have a relationship with. The pain that is caused by these labels is severe. Bringing an addict or a person with a mental disorder to the point where they are ready to admit they need help, and are able to reach out for help, takes immense strength and courage on their part. When someone who does not know them personally comes along and labels them as damaged goods, it can make them retreat back into a dark place and abandon the progress they were making. When someone fragile is made to feel ashamed of their fragility and their other faults, they are in danger of shattering. The way our culture has come to attack addiction and mental disorder instead of support it and care for it is part of the reason it is prevalent.

People Who Live with Addiction and Mental Disorders

living with addiction and mental disorderIf you are not personally effected somehow by the existence of mental disorders or addiction, you are in the minority. As much as a third of the North American population has an addiction or a mental illness, which means that almost everyone is personally connected to someone who struggles with one or both of these conditions. When you think about how prevalent conditions like these are, you will realize how inappropriate it is that so much stigmatization, labeling and stereotyping of addicts and those with mental disorders still takes place in our culture. Even though we are informed on how frequently these things effect individuals, we still turn a blind eye when we should be educating ourselves further on how to be more accepting of it.

The truth about people with addictions and disorders is that they have a disease, it is a deeply ingrained problem, it is impossible for them to change overnight and they require support and encouragement in order to heal. Mental health conditions are more evasive than physical conditions, and treating them is not always an exact science. Counselors require many years of training in order to be qualified to assess a person’s mental health. Because a person’s psyche has constantly been evolving since they were born, no two people have identical cases of addiction or mental disorder. This means that a counselor can never perfectly map out a person’s problems, but rather equip them with the resources to understand their own thinking and behavior, then teach them the tools to change their thinking and behavior.

Addiction and mental disorders alike have been determined by the medical and mental health community to be a condition that is detectable on a neurological and biochemical level. Treating them actually involves the process of rewiring a person’s neural network in order to reprogram their ways of thinking and behaving. Patience, encouragement, understanding and acceptance are what is needed to help a person struggling with an addiction or disorder get to a mentally healthy place.