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how do you imagine them? Your answer can help you determine if you are feeding into the stigma of mental health. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), this stigma often stems from misconceived stereotypes and prejudices—that somehow all people with mental illness are dangerous or unpredictable. WH O IS ME N TA L LY IL L ,

This type of public stigma can lead to self-stigma, making the individual feel at fault for their illness and can create larger discrimination in society. Nearly 1 in 5 American adults live with a mental illness, and an estimated 19 million Americans experience a major depressive episode each year. With such prevalence, why the stigma? “A common misconception is that mental health is all or nothing,” says Dr. Latasha Ellis, a psychotherapist at Iredell Psychiatry. “For example, there are various diagnoses within mental health. I think the stigma leads people to believe that mental health is more of the severely mentally ill, like those who are psychotic or schizophrenic. In all actuality, a lot of people struggle with things that are less severe, but those things may still fall under the umbrella of mental illness.”

that many individuals have faced. The mental health stigma may prevent individuals with a mental illness from seeking treatment to avoid being incorrectly labeled as “crazy” or “dangerous.” This stigma may create a lack of understanding from family, friends, coworkers, or others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men with mental illnesses are less likely to have received mental health treatment than women; and men are more likely to die by suicide than women. Why is this? “Women are typically more open and expressive,” Dr. Ellis explains. “Men may not share as willingly because of the way society has groomed males not to talk about or share their feelings. But anyone can experience mental health concerns.” This added societal pressure on men directly influences the mental health stigma. According to the APA, more than half of people with mental illness do not receive help for their

The most common mental illnesses, according to the APA, are depression and anxiety — something

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disorders (and many avoid seeking treatment) due to concerns about being treated differently in society. Especially after the previous year, consumed with the unprecedented pandemic, many have come to know depression and anxiety all too well. “The pandemic has brought more awareness to mental health because a larger amount of people are talking about it,” Dr. Ellis says. “The COVID-19 pandemic made mental health a little more acceptable in conversation because it brought forth a lot of anxiety in many of us.” How can I help stop the stigma? The past year has demonstrated how talking openly about mental health, even sharing it on social media, can help reduce the stigma of mental illness. “It’s important for everyone to be open about their mental health because it helps kill the stigma,” Dr. Ellis reiterates. “When more people are talking about it, and awareness is growing, those who are struggling secretly or privately are more comfortable coming forward and getting the help they need.” w LKN EXPERT

Latasha Ellis, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist at Iredell Psychiatry, a part of Iredell Health System. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.

WRITER SYDNEY TREXLER

Profile for Lake Norman Woman Magazine

Lake Norman Woman Magazine September 2021  

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