For as long as society has been aware of mental health concerns, it has also harbored stigma toward those experiencing such concerns. With limited knowledge of the varied factors influencing the development of mental health conditions, people historically believed these issues to be divine punishment, demonic possession, the effects of immoral behavior, or some combination of the above. People who developed mental health concerns were often shunned, exiled, locked away, abused, or subject to other cruel treatment.
Today, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress tend to be better understood by society than they were in the past, especially as more research shows just how common these conditions are. People who experience these concerns today may feel more comfortable discussing them with friends, family, or others experiencing similar conditions in their own lives than people may have even 50 years ago. A number of celebrities and other public figures even speak openly about their own mental health challenges in an effort to reduce stigma and increase awareness and support for those facing similar issues.
Stigma does still exist, however. Not everyone who wishes to seek treatment is able to do so, and some barriers to treatment result from the stigma attached to certain mental health concerns. Some may believe, for example, that challenges such as addiction result solely from an individual’s choices, and they may fail to recognize the range of contributing factors. Many conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar are falsely associated with violence, which may heighten feelings of shame or discrimination and lead those experiencing them to avoid seeking treatment. People diagnosed with borderline personality, one of the most stigmatized mental health conditions, often experience stigma even from mental health care practitioners and may be more likely to withdraw from treatment early as a result.
At GoodTherapy.org, we are committed to normalizing mental health concerns and eliminating mental health stigma. We believe all people should be able to seek care without fearing judgment or discrimination, and this Mental Health Awareness Month we would like to highlight 11 like-minded organizations working to increase mental health awareness and reduce stigma.
- Helpguide, a nonprofit, was founded by Jeanne and Robert Segal in 1999 after their daughter died by suicide. They started the website to provide people seeking help with access to professional research, presented in a non-biased and supportive format. The goal of the site is to offer hope and empower people to achieve greater mental well-being through knowledge and self-help, as well as treatment. Helpguide, which collaborates with Harvard Health Publications, provides extensive information about mental health concerns and emotional issues, an emotional intelligence toolkit, and a free monthly newsletter.
- Time to Change, a U.K.-based campaign run by the mental health charity organizations Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, works with adults, children, and youth to end discriminatory attitudes and behavior toward those with mental health concerns across England. Their work, which aims to challenge stigma in the workplace, in health care, and in all other areas of life, has already achieved some measure of success: The last annual survey conducted reported an 8.3% improvement in public attitude toward those with mental health concerns since the movement began in 2007. Visitors to the site can learn about mental health and the impact of stigma, access tips on discussing their own mental health conditions, pledge to end mental health stigma themselves, and find out how to get involved.
- mindyourmind is a Canadian nonprofit designed to offer supportive, relevant resources to youth, young adults, and adult professionals working with these populations. The site, which asks for and incorporates the input of the young people it serves, offers crisis and informational resources to those who need immediate help, information on wellness strategies and mental health concerns, interactive educational tools, and shared stories–which include art, videos, zines, and poetry.
- See Me, Scotland’s response to the stigmatization of mental health concerns, is a national program dedicated to ending the discrimination affecting outcomes for those facing mental and emotional challenges. The program also works to help people, especially young people, realize mental well-being is essential to good health and empower them to seek help and support when necessary. See Me’s website provides visitors with information on talking to employers and health care professionals, supporting staff members or coworkers, and advice on what to do when experiencing discrimination.
- Teenmentalhealth.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing youth, their families, and educators with reliable, evidence-based mental health information, works to combat stigma through accurate information and greater mental health literacy. The site offers several “First Person Experience” videos, each of which features a unique individual’s story, information about mental health and behavioral concerns as well as general wellness, a toolbox containing an informational app and resources, and “Care” resources specifically directed toward friends, educators, parents, and educators of those facing mental health challenges.
- CenterLink works to develop and support LGBT community centers throughout the United States and other parts of the world, promoting diversity and equality and celebrating LGBT culture. Nonprofit LGBT centers may, in some areas, be the only places LGBT individuals can seek information, health care, or other services of benefit to their well-being, but many locations lack resources, staff, and face other difficulties. CenterLink works to increase the capacity of these centers in order to allow them to reach and support a greater number of individuals. Visitors to the website can see center locations, access resources on CenterLink’s programs, view a list of LGBT-related job listings across the United States, and learn how to get involved.
- Families for Depression Awareness is a nonprofit organization working to promote depression awareness by uniquely focusing on the friends, family, and caregivers of those experiencing depression and/or bipolar. The website highlights their “Family Profiles,” a collection of interviews with individuals who have depression, which spread the message that anyone can experience depression in an effort to reduce stigma associated with the condition. Families can email these profiles to those they feel may be at risk. The site offers wellness analyzer tools, links to videos and resources for adults and youth, free webinars, and Depression Wellness Guides in English and Spanish.
- Freedom From Fear, a nonprofit organization advocating for those with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, offers content in both English and Spanish. Based in Staten Island, Freedom From Fear has a local treatment center and also offers information on alternatives to traditional counseling. Visitors to the site can watch informational videos about anxiety and depression, access treatment resources, subscribe to a free newsletter, and read weekly informational posts from experts and mental health professionals on a variety of topics related to wellness. The website also provides an extensive collection of links to other sites providing mental health care or crisis information and counseling resources.
- The NoStigmas Network is an organization seeking to unite individuals with a common goal: the elimination of stigma toward mental health concerns. Their website offers free membership to anyone who agrees to uphold core values of respect, community support and advocacy for others, personal responsibility, and the elimination of stigma. Membership includes tools for awareness; informational content; and access to peer groups, events, and e-learning courses. Site visitors can also view the NoStigmas project, which are member-contributed stories in various media formats about the journey toward healing and wellness. Visitors in need of support can connect online with peers, obtain information about free or low-cost counseling resources and services, and access wellness information and treatment tools.
- The National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health seeks to promote equal behavioral health care resources for all. The organization strives to connect minority communities through shared values and wellness goals to foster the growth of community-based knowledge, eliminate stigma, and achieve equity in behavioral and wellness resources. Each year in July, which is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, NNED partners with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to offer Twitter chats and Mental Health Awareness webinars to celebrate and increase mental health awareness across diverse communities nationwide.
- MentalHealthChannel is a web-based platform for mental health and wellness programming. The channel’s programming includes several original series on a variety of topics, such as personal stories and information about wellness, treatment, and care access. Thorough their programming, MHC hopes to encourage people to have positive conversations about mental health and wellness, increase understanding of mental health challenges, and support those who are facing them. All of their content, some of which appears on PBS and other television channels, is completely free to view and share by individuals or organizations. MHC also offers filmmakers the option to submit short films raising awareness about mental health concerns with an annual Online Film Festival.
If you know of an organization working to end mental health stigma, please recommend it here.
- Deans C., Meocevic E. (2006). Attitudes of registered psychiatric nurses towards patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Contemporary Nurse, 21 pp. 43–9.
- Foerschner, A. M. (2010). The history of mental illness: From skull drills to happy pills. Student Pulse, 2(09), 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/283/the-history-of-mental-illness-from-skull-drills-to-happy-pills
- Szabo, L. (2014, June 25). The cost of not caring. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/25/stigma-of-mental-illness/9875351
- Yasgur, B. S. (2015, April 03). Stigmatizing patients with borderline personality disorder. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/practice-management/stigmatizing-patients-with-borderline-personality-disorder/article/407316
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.