Stigma Reduction — 23 March 2016

Mental illness appears to finally be working its way out of the shadows and garnering much-needed attention.

According to a study that will have psychologists rejoicing, Americans are increasingly rejecting age-old stigmas attached to mental illness. Or rather, more people are now embracing the view that mental health is not fundamentally different than physical health, and that it can (and should) receive treatment.

An online poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that 89 percent of Americans believe that “mental health and physical health are equally important.”

Similarly, 92 percent believe that mental health care is a fundamental part of health services.

Americans also recognize the shortcomings of the current health care system with regards to mental health. Fifty-six percent say that the status quo treats physical health as more important than psychological health, while only 28 percent say the two receive parity.

Only 12 percent of U.S. adults have seen a mental health professional in the past year, compared to 65 percent who have seen a primary care physician.

However, much greater proportions of Americans report having psychological troubles in the past: 47 percent say they have thought they had a mental health issue at some point, while a third report having been diagnosed with a mental condition. Twenty-nine percent report having participated in talk therapy with a counselor at some point, while a quarter report having taken medication for a mental condition.

Depression and anxiety/panic disorder are by far the most common diagnoses. Both have been diagnosed in roughly a fifth of the U.S. adult population.

Attitudes on suicide are diverse. Among the many opinions that overlap:

  • 48 percent believe suicide is a way to escape pain
  • 39 percent believe it is an act of selfishness
  • 20 percent see it as the result of weakness or cowardice
  • 18 percent believe a person has a right to commit suicide

What is likely very encouraging to mental health professionals is the fact that most Americans appear to believe that suicide can be prevented with treatment. Over 90 percent believe that it can at least sometimes be prevented, and 63 percent believe that more access to mental health services would reduce deaths.

This article first appeared on ‘Benefits Pro’ on 22 March 2016.

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