Americans more open about mental health issues but stigma persists, finds survey

Americans more open about mental health issues but stigma persists, finds survey

While the general awareness about mental health problems is on the rise in the United States, stigmas and misperceptions surrounding them are still prevalent among Americans, a recent survey reveals. According to the survey conducted on 3,000 U.S. adults, 70 percent of the respondents were comparatively more open to talking about mental health than a decade ago.

Moreover, a majority of the people participating in the survey were willing to help family members or friends living with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. However, the respondents also accepted the prevalence of age-old misperceptions in the country, with many still relating mental health disorders, at least partially, to “personal failings.”

Dr. Don Mordecai, the brain behind the poll, referred this stigmatization as “disappointing.” Mordecai, who is director of mental health and addiction medicine services at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, said, “These are true brain conditions and we have to get away from the blaming.”

As per the survey, nearly 40 percent participants admitted to having faced a mental health “issue” at some point, while 92 percent of them sought some kind of help. Besides, 70 percent of respondents were willing to offer support to people struggling with a mental health condition. However, the survey also reported some anomalies. Three-quarters of participants felt that treatment of mental disorders should not be different from physical health problems.

Stigmas affecting prognosis of mental illnesses

Mental health conditions adversely affect one’s thinking, mood and behavior. Generally, psychiatric disorders result from biological factors (including genes or brain chemistry), life experiences (trauma or abuse) and a family history of similar problems. Like physical ailments, mental illnesses also require timely detection and treatment.

However, many people with mental disorders find it difficult to seek timely treatment due to stigmas associated with such problems. According to the survey, a significant number of respondents, including one-quarter of millennials thought that “most people” with mental health problems did not need treatment and could recover on their own. This belief, as Mordecai pointed out, is quite worrisome. In another concerning revelation, more than 50 percent respondents felt that a family member or friend was silently battling a mental health condition, but could not disclose it out of fear of stigmatization or shame.

As per another national survey conducted by Michigan State University scholars, less than half of Americans said that they could recognize anxiety. However, most people were not aware what to do about depression even when they identified it, while 80 percent did not consider prescription drug abuse as a treatable problem. The survey, published in April 2017, examined mental health literacy on four major concerns, including anxiety, depression, prescription drug misuse and alcohol abuse. The authors concluded that despite the huge progress made in the area of mental health literacy in recent decades, people were still ignorant of signs and risks of psychiatric illnesses. Moreover, they felt the need of educating people about overcoming stigma to be able to better deal with such problems.

Dealing with mental health problems

There is an immediate need to dedicate efforts to help communities learn about the ways to address behavioral health challenges, especially substance abuse and suicidal behavior that affect the majority of the population. Most people with mental health problems can recover. While treatment and recovery are gradual processes, seeking professional help is the first step.

People who know someone with a mental health problem should encourage him or her to seek professional help. The 24/7 Mental Health Helpline is a reliable outpatient mental health helpline that offers credible information about treatment options. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-653-8178 or chat online with one of our representatives for more information about an outpatient mental health helpline center near you.