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Behavioral Health Unplugged: Breaking the Stigma of Addiction

Behavioral-HealthAs a result of the stigma associated with addiction, many addicts and alcoholics feel discriminated against on a global scale.   The main issue with this is that when nothing gets talked about, addiction continues to be blamed on generic behavioral health issues rather than a chronic brain disease. Silence is the greatest offender of mental illness, because it worsens the disease by strengthening the stigmatization and feeding the misconceptions that some people have about mental illness. In short, people aren’t speaking up and asking for help because they are scared.

Understanding Behavioral Health Issues

Mental illness isn’t a behavioral health issue entirely either, but rather an actual brain disorder that needs to be treated as such.  An estimated 90% of suicides have been  linked to some kind of mental illness.Suicides are the third leading cause of death for individuals between ages 15 and 25 years old, and 38,000 of these suicides occur in the United States annually.  This translates to 1 suicide every 15 minutes, according to this video posted on YouTube for a TED Talks Show with Thomas Insel.

Speaking Up About Mental Illness

In a recent video posted on Bring Change 2 Mind anonymous sufferers of the disease and advocates spoke out about the definition of stigma on mental illness. According to one participant, “It is woven into the fabric of our society and it stems back centuries really when mental illness was considered a character flaw.”

A common misconception about mental illness is that it is merely the result of a defect in one’s character.  This is untrue; a mental ailment is an actual impediment of the brain and not about an individual lacking in moral judgement or acting out in poor behavior.

Another comment explained two aspects of mental illness. “On one side are the symptoms and the stress and disability.  On the other side though is community’s reaction to illness, the prejudice and discrimination that makes up stigma.”  There is such despair and scourge that the sufferer endures as a result of their illness; the pain is amplified by society’s overall negative response. However, the sufferer can’t go on being the victim and must remain vocal about what they are going through in order to get better.  Being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t mean that an individual is going to have a miserable life.  There is hope to live a meaningful and balanced life when the individual reaches out for help to manage and treat their illness.

When individuals in society can stop placing judgement on mental illness and can instead redirect their focus to better understanding, it can help shape an integrated community where there is more susceptibility to change.  With change, solidity can shape a better future for sufferers of mental illness, and stigma can be expunged.  Right now, individuals in society seem to be fearful, angered, misunderstanding and hateful when it comes to the mentally ill.  This is exactly why that change needs to occur, and that is only going to happen by continuing to talk about it. Otherwise, the less vocal society is, and the less people addressing  the stigma of mental illness, the more the disparity will grow.




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