Overcoming the Stigma of Seeking Help for Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Overcoming the Stigma of Seeking Help for Addiction and Mental Health


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Overcoming the Stigma of Seeking Help for Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

For many people suffering from mental health disorders or substance addiction, getting help isn’t as easy as it may seem. For a non-suffering person, the answer may be to simply seek treatment and get off the drugs or alcohol, or to seek help from a mental health specialist. However, the stigma facing those struggling with mental health disorders or addiction is very difficult and all too real.

There are many barriers and hurdles that can be a detriment and prevent them from getting treatment. One of the barriers to getting help can simply be that the person seeking treatment is afraid of backlash at their workplace, or of not getting the support they need from family or friends. Addicts and those with mental health issues may feel they have to deal with it themselves privately, or “get over it” as best as possible.

, and changing the public perception about addiction and substance abuse is key

The reality is that isolating someone rarely works. Support and treatment are both needed to get on the path to recovery.

Building a Sense of Community

Another stigma facing those battling addiction or a mental disorder is that they may feel a sense of shame for their problem, which can lead to not seeking help. They may still hold stable jobs, have families and otherwise be seen as having it “together”. SInce mental health is so personal and cannot be seen physically by others, they may feel misunderstood or that the disease isn’t real. They may also be afraid of being judged by their peers, family members, or people who find out through the grapevine. The fear can be so strong that they may not even seek treatment until it’s too late.

Creating community awareness is important in changing public opinion on mental health and addiction. Educating and creating insights that can help others learn about the real struggles addicts and sufferers face can help garner sympathy and understanding. Also, creating access to the right care needed can help addicts realize that they have options, as well as people who can support them.

Access to the healthcare system and getting the care needed without any major barriers can make the process easier and seem less daunting. Often, addiction treatment is not covered by insurance, or providers must wait long periods of time to get paid, causing backups and waiting time.

Public Perception

Some of the public perception may be that it’s an addict’s choice to keep using, and they are simply just unable to quit. They are blamed for their problem, which in turn creates a cycle of guilt and shame that keeps them in a loop of addiction and avoiding treatment.

Mental health issues are often not discussed in many families, and family members themselves may be ashamed to admit that a loved one has an addiction problem or a mental illness. Furthermore, though people feel sympathy for those who are afflicted with more physical disease or health problems, they do not feel the same kind of sympathy for people who have addiction problems or mental illness. A 2014 study by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that Americans are more likely to have a negative opinion of someone with a substance abuse disorder than they are of someone with a mental illness, and less apt to approve housing, insurance or employment for them. This kind of discrimination adds to the obstacles of seeking and receiving treatment, thus increasing the likelihood of a potential relapse.

Open Dialogue

For a long time, talking about substance abuse and mental health was considered taboo and dismissed at all costs. Starting a conversation about mental health is a good way to bring this important issue to light and create acceptance. With almost 20 million American adults suffering from a substance abuse disorder in 2017, the need for knowledge and awareness is bigger than ever. According to research, 8.5 million of those adults also suffered from a mental health disorder, making the problem widespread.

There has never been a better time to begin reversing the misconceptions of addiction and mental health. Maintaining a connection with caregivers, family and peers, while receiving sympathy and support will go a long way towards the sufferer’s recovery and can help reduce the potential for relapse.

An open dialogue on this stigmatized issue will go a long way in getting help for those who need it.

If you or someone you know is seeking help, please visit our directory of mental health resources or our directory of addiction treatment centers. You may also call 800-891-8171 to start the path to recovery today.

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