Unfortunately, important topics within the health care community often do not receive the attention they deserve until someone famous speaks out. For example, earlier this year, Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson opened up about his recent borderline personality disorder diagnosis. With over 3 million cases each year in the US, borderline personality disorder is extremely common. It is characterized by unstable moods, relationships and behavior.
While borderline personality depression falls under the umbrella of depression, it is classified as its own diagnosis by the National Institute of Mental Health. Davidson chose to use his platform to raise awareness of the disorder and offer advice for others in similar circumstances. His suggestions included, “See a doctor, talk to them about medication, eat right and exercise, and perhaps, should you happen to be a member of a late night comedy show, plead with the powers that be to put more of your sketches on air.” Given the positive response on the internet, Davidson accomplished his goal to be both relatable and helpful.
Overcoming the mental health stigma
The stigma of mental illness prevents professionals in all industries from seeking the help they need. While major organizations, like the U.S. Military, spend thousands of dollars trying to convince their service members that seeking mental health services will not affect their career, research shows this is not actually the case. A Washington Post article from last year shows that people who reveal their mental health burdens do actually face bias and discrimination. Additional research from a 2013 study showed that almost 24% of people with disabilities experienced negative long-term issues at work.
Davidson’s concern that discussing borderline personality disorder could cause a negative reaction is certainly valid. Most people don’t know enough about this condition. But the only way to combat these stigmas is to talk about them, openly, and often. Davidson has the right approach.
Do something about it
Mental health professionals are committed to combatting the stigma associated with mental illness. Some use their personal experiences battling mental illness to help identify with their patients. There are many different ways health care professionals can positively impact the lives of these patients, both clinically and emotionally.
Both clinical and specialty psychologists are trained to make diagnoses, provide therapy and work with other health care staff in the best interest of their patients. A recent article in Psychology Today talks about how the professionals in this field are working to combat the stigma associated with mental health. “As psychologist Patrick Corrigan at the Illinois Institute of Technology and retired Professor of Nursing Megan-Jane Johnstone have extensively argued, since stigmatized groups are regularly discriminated against and face restrictions in their civil rights, mental health stigma is also a question of social justice,” the piece reads.
Therapists come in many varieties to assist patients with different needs. Art Therapists are one of the most unique, as they combine human development and creativity to help patients express themselves. Veterans suffering from PTSD are using art therapy in a variety of ways, including painting, like this group.
Psychiatrists are also working to battle the negative stigmas of mental health disorders. By working to diagnose and treat patients through biological, psychotherapeutic and psychosocial treatments, these physicians can help the patient in various ways.
Get active now
As a health care student and a health care provider, there are many ways you can help lift the stigma of mental health, even if this career field is not for you. Here are some suggestions:
- Talk openly and honestly.
- Educate others.
- Use the correct terms.
- Realize that physical illness and mental illness are both diseases.
- Show compassion.
- Encourage, don’t shame.
- Speak out when mainstream media is doing more harm than good.
Often, the first person to treat a patient with a mental illness is their primary care physicians, which makes awareness and sensitivity among all health care providers that much more essential. From the receptionist to the nurse to the doctor, everyone needs to be respectful.
No spotlight needed
Sure, celebrities will continue to speak out about mental illness, social injustice and all sorts of “hot button” issues in order to raise money and awareness. Today we see more and more celebrities talking about mental health, examples being Elle King who is struggling with PTSD and depression, Elizabeth Vargas and her anxiety and Prince Harry, as he often talks about shutting off his emotions to deal with the trauma of losing his mother.
While most people pay more attention to something when it is said by a celebrity, that doesn’t mean those outside of the spotlight shouldn’t take the time to talk about mental illness. Each conversation that normalizes and de-stigmatizes mental illness may help put those affected at ease.