Mental Health Awareness

Removing the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health


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Why is it that physical ailments and diagnoses are met with condolences and sympathy, yet, mental health diagnoses are met with disdain or judgment?

According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults in America experience a mental illness. The numbers related to specific diagnoses among adults in the U.S. include:

  • 4 million adults live with schizophrenia
  • 1 million adults live with bipolar disorder
  • 16 million adults live with major depression
  • 42 million adults live with anxiety disorders[1]

At Hodges University, we as counselors work to ensure our students are provided with the necessary tools to excel in everyday life while furthering their education. The goal is to bring awareness to the ongoing struggles of mental illness and break the stigmas many people deal with on a daily basis.

In order to eliminate stigmas, we must separate the diagnosis from the individual. You may hear someone say, “I am bipolar.” How many of us don’t pick up on what they are really saying? What we must remember is that the individual is not the diagnosis; they are an individual with a diagnosis. Instead, it would sound something like, “I have bipolar” as opposed to “I am bipolar.”

Addressing the stigma associated with mental illness is a cause close to many; however, one family in particular is bringing it to the forefront. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are supporting the “Heads Together” campaign. According to the Royal Foundation website, the campaign “is a partnership with experienced and inspiring charities that provide frontline mental health support to people who may need it, whilst raising awareness and tackling stigma.”[2]

By removing the stigma, it makes an immediate difference to someone who is battling a mental illness.

Stigma is one of the main reasons people do not seek out treatment when they are newly diagnosed. Individuals who are diagnosed feel they are not strong and hide behind their diagnosis due to fear and repercussions of having a mental illness. Career and family can be some of the areas most affected. It takes courage and strength to accept and work through a mental illness.

Research is on the rise for sufferers of mental health disorders. Employers are taking a role in advocating for employees who suffer from a mental disorder. Many are offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which cover short-term counseling related to numerous diagnoses.

In an article posted to the Huffington Post’s website, author Joseph Rauch explains why employers should discuss mental illness in the workplace. “By addressing mental health issues in the workplace and investing in mental health care for workers, employers can increase productivity and employee retention,” he said.[3]

The first step is to reach out. Hodges University’s Student Success Department offers short-term counseling to our students and on a case-by-case basis. For more information, email counseling@hodges.edu or call 1 (800) 466-0019. Jama Thurman assists Fort Myers and distance students, and Lourdes Araujo assists Naples, ESL and disability students.

[1] “Mental Health Facts in America.” National Association of Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf

[2] “Heads Together: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry working to Eliminate Stigma around Mental Health.” The Royal Foundation. http://www.royalfoundation.com/heads-together-duke-duchess-cambridge-prince-harry-working-eliminate-stigma-around-mental-health/

[3] “Why Employers Need To Talk About Mental Illness In The Workplace.” The Huffington Post. August 19, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-rauch/employers-talk-about-mental-illness-workplace_b_11427674.html