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College: Mental Health Stigma

What is mental health stigma?

In relation to mental health and mental illness, stigma is when someone is discredited, judged, or marked in some way, or is reduced as a person based on labels such as being called 'crazy' or 'psychotic'. The meaning of the word stigma is a stain or blemish. People with mental illnesses may face stigma, especially when in college. Mental health stigma often makes people with mental illness feel as if they are less than other people. They may also be judged, viewed in a negative way, or talked and gossiped about.

What are examples of mental health stigma?

People often refer to those with mental illness as 'crazy', 'dangerous', or 'insane', which is a form of mental health stigma. It's also a stigma when people judge, mock, or make fun of someone for having a mental illness or for trying to receive help. Stigma often involves inaccurate stereotypes and people with mental illnesses are often seen as dangerous or violent, when in reality, most mental illnesses don't make anyone any more violent than someone not dealing with a mental illness. People who have depression may be told to 'snap out of it' and people with anxiety disorders may be told to 'just stop worrying'. These are forms of stigma. Other sayings like 'it's not that serious' or 'your life isn't that bad' are also forms of stigma. These remarks are forms of stigma and usually make someone with mental illness feel lonely, isolated, and unsupported.

Why does a mental health stigma even exist?

Usually, a lack of understanding and education surrounding mental health causes a mental health stigma. Ignorance, lack of empathy, and misinformation can also be factors into mental health stigma. Some people simply have negative attitudes toward those with mental illness which is unfortunate. All of this can lead to discrimination against those suffering from mental illness. Media and TV shows/movies also play a role in mental health stigma through portraying inaccurate situations about people with mental illnesses and by normalizing situations through unwarranted references to mental illness. By example, TV shows often showcase people with mental illnesses using a gun, or committing an act of violence, when in reality, for most this isn't true.

Does stigma affect people with mental illness?

A person who faces stigmatism may be discriminated against and may be labelled by their illness which often makes them feel vulnerable. Anyone that has a mental illness sees on social media and on the news the gossip and stories done on mental health and many of them make people with mental illness feel like their struggles don't matter and that they need to just get over it. It can be even harder for college students. Stigma might make them feel lonely, worthless, and ashamed.  For college students, social media can play a role in this as we are constantly shown things online about mental health, much of it untrue.

How does the One Life Project help college students with mental health stigma?

The One Life Project works in schools to help combat the mental health stigma that still exists here in 2023. Part of our mission is working to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Through education, activism, advocacy, and support, we are able to help end the stigma that surrounds it. If enough voices step forward and support those with mental health, the stigma will decrease. The more we educate and inform people, the less the stigma will exist.

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