Updated: Jun 19
Originally published by Nani Lawrence, tardistrekker24 on In Good Health. The GroundUp has been granted permission to republish the article with edits. The stigma attached to mental illness is very real and it causes many people to suffer in silence. To learn more about mental illness, visit Drugwatch, a free health site that publishes educational guides for mental illness that covers anxiety, depression, treatments, and more: https://www.drugwatch.com/health/mental-health/mental-illness/ https://www.drugwatch.com/mental-health/depression/
The inequality most of us face contributes to mental health issues. For example, why do you think Indigenous men are stereotyped as alcoholics? There is a basis in reality for this stereotype: many Indigenous people are depressed because they are routinely oppressed, and sans adequate support, many of these people turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol and other drugs. Because of the prevalence of inequality it is important for marginalized communities to practice self care.
I know there are several hang-ups surrounding seeking treatment or even admitting a mental health struggle, but I’ll address cultural hang-ups to seeking treatment specifically.
Seeking treatment for mental health issues has become more socially acceptable and social openness about mental health issues has become more normalized. That’s almost laughable to say given that the past four years have been spent under Trump’s boot, but I honestly believe that the segment of the population we see pushing back against the normalization of mental health issues is way more covert and discreetly organized, not as televised, and much more militantly committed to keeping staunch normatives about what is socially acceptable in the terrain of mental health. Having noted this, the dying-out status-quo still equates needing help, especially with mental health, to being weak.
Another barrier, and a very unfortunate dimension of mental health is that many symptoms of mental illness directly impair a person from improving their situation. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea; clearly, the Austin Powers' movies are meant to be ridiculous, but I love the conundrum expressed by Fat Bastard in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me because it’s so simply laid out: “I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat.”
With many mental illnesses, the thing you need to do to pull yourself out of your funk is inaccessible because of your funk. For example, I know one of the things I need to do to feel like myself is to work out. A symptom of depression is lack of motivation, and I’ve worked out maybe once or twice a week for the past month. It’s hard.
To work out of the various funks of mental illness it is good to work on finding and practicing a routine for self care that works for you. If it involves doing all the things you love and avoiding the news, do it.
The final barrier I wanted to address is people’s fear that they might lose their job because of their mental illness. I’ve heard it before, that many are afraid that if they disclose their mental illness to an employer, their employer would see them in a negative light. That’s a very valid concern, but the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act covers all medical information across the board. Unless you legitimately think it’s a concern, you are not obligated to disclose anything.
I think after this Covid-19 and election year we’ve all had, it’s much more apparent just how easily mental illness can creep in. According to SingleCare, about 970 million adults worldwide suffer from mental health issues, and though we don’t have the official medical data yet, a national survey conducted by the American Psychiatric Association showed that 59% of people in the u.s. have been dealing with pandemic related mental health concerns.
There is some good news in terms of access to mental health treatment. One of the Obamacare rules was that all insurance in the medical market place had to cover mental health care. MentalHealth.com also points out that big companies, small companies, and individual plans also must adhere to similar rules.
Now for the bad news. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, something called network inadequacy makes accessing this help very difficult.
Basically, the problem is that insurers choose what healthcare providers they’ll cover, and oftentimes it’s a huge battle for low-income and other economic groups to find a good general practitioner in-network. Guin Becker Bogusz with the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that “A 2019 report found that a behavioral health office visit is over five times more likely to be out-of-network than a primary care appointment."