End the Stigma, Stop the Shame—NOW!
Over half of the U.S. population will struggle with a mental health issue at some point in their lives, which means it’s actually more common to experience some form of “mental illness” than not. The conditions affecting the most Americans are anxiety disorders (28%), depression (21%), impulse control disorders (25%), and substance use disorders (15%). Half of all cases start by age 14, and 75 percent start by age 24.
Despite how prevalent these conditions are, being diagnosed with a mental illness or psychiatric disorder insidiously taints or stains everyone who struggles with perceived issues of the mind. Our society tends to shame people with mental health problems, and the stigma attached to psychiatric disorders often prevents people from seeking the treatment they need. In fact, more than half of all people with mental health conditions go untreated. Too many people say, “I’m not going to see a psychiatrist because I’m not crazy.”
This needs to stop. Now!
Stop Playing the Shame Game
Shame holds too many people back from getting the help they need. No one is shamed for cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, even though they have significant lifestyle contributions. Likewise, no one should be shamed for depression, panic disorders, bipolar disorder, addictions, schizophrenia, or any other condition. But people with these issues are often blamed for their condition, called names, or told to “just get over it.”
Social stigma—the biased attitudes coming from family, friends, coworkers, and others—is only part of the problem. By labeling these issues as “mental health” or “psychiatric,” people suffer in silence because of the shame they feel internally. They’re more likely to isolate themselves from their support network, which can exacerbate symptoms. In addition, they mistakenly think that having a condition like depression or anxiety is a character flaw or personal weakness. It isn’t.
Mental Health Disorders are Brain Disorders
All of these mental disorders have a biological and neurological basis. Your brain can have problems just like your heart can have problems. Looking at mental health disorders as brain disorders changes everything.
- People begin to see their problems as medical, not moral.
- It decreases shame and guilt.
- It increases forgiveness and compassion from families.
- It is a more accurate explanation of the biology involved.
- It elevates hope.
- It increases the desire to get help.
- It increases compliance with treatment plans
- It encourages people to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
Diagnosing Mental Illnesses Like Medical Illnesses
One of the most powerful ways the healthcare arena can help reduce shame and stigma is to use some of the same tools and strategies to evaluate mental health conditions that are used to diagnose medical conditions. These include looking at family history and genetics, performing bloodwork and other lab tests, and using functional imaging tools to look at the brain.
Seeing is believing. Functional brain imaging studies using SPECT technology show that mental health problems are actually brain health problems. Without imaging, physicians miss important clues about factors that may be contributing to symptoms of mental illness, including past traumatic brain injuries, exposure to toxins (such as toxic mold, drugs, or alcohol), and infections (such as Lyme disease). All of these underlying issues are treatable when properly diagnosed. When these factors go undiagnosed and untreated, however, symptoms can fester.
The more we can shift the discussion, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health to brain health, the sooner we can end the stigma and stop the shame.
At Amen Clinics, we use SPECT brain imaging as part of a comprehensive brain-body evaluation for people struggling with mental health (or rather, brain health) conditions. Our integrated approach to diagnosis and treatment includes scanning your brain, lab tests, and exploring any biological, psychological, social, or spiritual factors that could be contributing to your symptoms. With the Amen Clinics Method, we have helped tens of thousands of people optimize their brain to overcome their symptoms. To learn how we can help you, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.