Are People Becoming More Accepting of Mental Illness?
13 January, 2022
Mental illness can take many different forms, stretching far beyond anxiety and depression and into a plethora of other diagnoses, each of which is important and needs care. Despite how common mental illness can be, it is still a taboo subject that doesn’t get much attention and is often met with antagonistic language, judgment, and misunderstanding.
Mental health is an incredibly nuanced topic, making discussions surrounding it mysterious to many. Yet, there have been strides made toward destigmatizing mental health disorders as more information becomes readily available and discussed.
While mental health is slowly but surely becoming more accepted, there is still much to be done to reach greater levels of acceptance, understanding, and action in mental health recovery.
Tackling the Invisible
A major hurdle for mental health acceptance is the fact that it remains invisible. The inability to garner a genuine, intimate understanding of the subject can lead to many misinterpretations. For example, while feelings of anxiety are felt by nearly everyone, anxiety disorders are not. It can be difficult to understand how different the two can feel to one who has only experienced a manageable level of anxiety and not the overwhelming feeling of an anxiety disorder, panic attack, or similar diagnosis.
This is where the starkest divide exists between mental illness and physical injury. Even if someone has not experienced the same physical trauma as another, it is often easier to communicate the effects of physical injury than those of a chronic mental disorder. While not everyone has broken a bone, one may have sprained a joint or pulled a muscle and can imagine the pain of the other person. Even scraping an elbow and going through the healing process of aches and scabbing can provide at least a baseline level of sympathy and understanding — a luxury not provided to mental health concerns.
There is also a lack of language available to express the symptoms of mental health disorders. Between people’s inability to conceptualize what depression or PTSD feels like and the inability of the sufferer to explain what they’re dealing with, people without mental health struggles find it difficult to empathize and understand.
While mental health acceptance is by no means universally understood, the steady increase in the discourse surrounding the subject draws attention to the issues at hand. A study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “Stress in America: Generation Z,” revealed that conversations and acceptance of mental illness have been steadily increasing, with about a third of Generation Z being open to or having attended a therapeutic program (37%) compared to Baby Boomers (22%) or the Silent Generation (15%). This steady increase in acceptance is cause for celebration on its own: not only are mental health concerns becoming more well-known but there is increased action to combat its detrimental effects.
The Arrival of Digital Media
Digital media has changed the informational landscape rapidly, both in terms of access and connections. Through a digital platform that can reach millions across various channels, new light has been shed on mental health and the people it affects. Mental illness can cause an individual to retreat to silence rather than attempt to articulate complex emotions. This often results in an individual being judged for the effects of the mental illness rather than seen as a victim of a disorder. For example, an individual may keep difficult feelings of depression and self-harm and instead opt to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. This could lead to them being dismissed or unfairly labeled without the truly complex nature of the situation coming to light.
Now, digital media has created a space where those dealing with mental health issues can find others who understand their unique struggles, either by having similar experiences themselves or having a friend or family member in a similar situation. Seeing the number of people that such disorders affect has also increased the awareness of how widespread many of these issues are, empowering others to speak up about their stresses and creating a larger community of acceptance.
Taking the Next Step
The Mental Health Justice Act of 2021 is a great step in the right direction for recognizing mental health as the unique struggle that it is. This bill provided grants to states and local governments to not only allow the dispatch of mental health professionals instead of law enforcement for mental health-related distress but also to help fund training programs to tackle these delicate situations with a defter hand. However, while a phenomenal step in recognition and attention, it is still the beginning.
Awareness is not the same as acceptance, and there is still a great amount of misinformation, preconceived judgments, and assumptions made about those who suffer from mental health disorders. Despite the strides made throughout each generation, mental illness is still not widely understood. With the myriad of different diagnoses uniquely affecting each individual, there is no simple solution to mental illness.
While more and more light is shed on mental illness, keeping the dialogue alive requires continued support. Speaking out in support on digital media platforms or publicly supporting a loved one who struggles with mental health challenges are all still necessary to create the understanding and acceptance needed to combat the stigma surrounding mental health disorders.
Plenty Of Work Left
Mental illness is a hotly debated topic, and while there have been great strides toward acceptance, the discussions are not at their end, especially with regards to the relationship between mental health challenges and addiction. At The Edge Treatment Center, we are dedicated to providing you with a supportive community to help you and shed light on the subject of mental wellness. For more information on how we can help you, call to speak to us today.
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