Commentary: The Unfair Stigma Of Mental Health
In the Wichita metro area, every year an estimated 160,000 people live with an undiagnosed mental health concern. That’s 25% of the population, so unless you only know two other people, you probably know someone who needs mental health care, but is likely not receiving it. Maybe they don’t know the resources available to them, but maybe the stigma is keeping them from reaching out.
Your friends and family who live with a mental health concern are not weak. They’re not unable to cope with the challenges of life. They don’t have some sort of character defect. And they didn’t do anything wrong. Like cancer, mental illness stems from biological processes over which we have little, if any, control. Like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, mental illness stems from genetics, which we cannot affect. And like asthma, mental illnesses can also be caused or worsened by environmental factors that we are unable to change.
The stigma that’s still unfairly associated with mental illness is part of what keeps so many people in south-central Kansas from seeking and receiving the mental health care that they need. They worry that you are going to think less of them. They think you’ll be afraid. Are they right?
Links to information on countering stigmas, or determining if you or your loved one needs help can be found at MHANational.org. KMUW’s mental health series is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.
Eric Litwiller is the director of development and communications at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas.