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End the Stigma, Stop the Shame—NOW!

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.

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COMMENTS

  1. Robyn says:

    I didn’t see any disabilities like Dyslexia which is of course a neurological disorder that one is born with. Is Dyslexia included in your list of mental health issues. After all, Dyslexia can also be a catalyst for many of the issues that have been listed?

  2. Elizabeth A Rawnsley says:

    If people do go on to seek assistance by medical professionals, none of these practices that you are suggesting necessary are even considered, requested or performed by professionals, in the field of mental healthcare: (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.)

    The shame falls on the shoulders of the medical healthcare system pushing potent drugs into the system of many people. I witnessed a mental health care hospital treat a very depressed woman for almost one year a time frame. A mental health care system that locked up people and never administered any tests or reviewed any past history of the patient. Where do we fail? No one would come into the facility and oversee the unethical care of this patient. No appropriate oversight of the medical industry during many a process. She was shot up with potent drugs on a regular basis against her will and she was treated so disrespectful, by the state officials in charge of her medical and mental healthcare. She was forced into the facility because of a 911 medical assistance call for depression and threats of suicide. She was shot by police with taser guns at least seven or more times by two police. Why? Because they were aware of her struggles and depression and that she may resist any assistance of the police. She did not need the intervention of the police. She was in need of a full evaluation and appropriate resources and some “validity” for what took place in her past history and the illegal actions that took place in her youth. We are not too interested in hearing what it is that may bring on depression or struggles for people if it involves wrongdoings of adult men and women. The professional and very unethical conduct was covered up by media, state and federal officials and by attorneys in New Hampshire, MA and by the federal agencies and many politicians. This is healthcare in the U.S.A. in a region where we have Harvard graduates in the legal industry protecting many wrongdoings of those men and women in the medical industry. Insurance Companies? That is where the injustice will always fail. They are not supporting the appropriate medical or mental healthcare for many people. Why? We are not able to ask for these types of tests of the insurance companies or government-controlled medicare or medicare. We are paying healthcare professionals working in state facilities but we do not have anyone to oversee any injustices. We have doctors overprescribing medicine and we have young adults dying in the streets of drugs overdose. We have so many ill people pushed into the streets homeless,in one of the wealthiest countries. Shame on us.

  3. Laura says:

    My son lives in NEW ORLEANS he suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. His employer rushed him to ER thinking he was having a heart attack. He’s 25. How can we help him? We live in California,

    • Lynne Castonguay says:

      Severe anxiety and panic attacks are often caused by one or several events which have compromised safety or sense of safety.
      It’s crucial that all components of safety (emotional, physical, present and past) are reinstated for to decrease overall anxiety.
      I’m a Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist in Ontario. I would likely recommend EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to shift your son’s emotional sense of safety. It can be quick and has been very effective in many client cases.
      Wishing you the very best.
      Lynne Castonguay MSW, RSW CCAC

  4. They are to blame says:

    I’m sorry but if you kill someone you still go to jail. If you hurt someone just because you are sick doesn’t mean you aren’t to blame. If an alcoholic drunk drives they are still to blame. This it stupid. Getting help isn’t the issue. A sickness is a sickness that doesn’t mean they get to do as they please they still are responsible.

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