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by Anna Yoni Jeffries

When many people hear the words “mental health,” they think of a “crazed” individual who is unfit to live amongst others socially. Characters with mental illnesses are often sensationalized in the media and in fictional stories, exacerbating the stigma that already exists. The recent popular horror film Midsommar, for example, has been criticized for the overly violent, unrealistic way that a bipolar character is portrayed. Or take the post-apocalyptic Netflix thriller Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock. Writer Jess Joho says, “Bird Box joins a long-standing tradition of mass media perpetuating the myth that people with mental illness are dangerously deranged villains of ultra-violence, rather than the reality that they’re actually more likely to be victims of violence.”

These types of inaccurate, harmful associations can happen anywhere. And they lead to misunderstandings and discrimination against people with mental illness, which leaves many without treatment or proper diagnoses.

According to nami.org, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States (~46.6 million) experiences mental illness every year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the United States (~11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness each year that dramatically interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. At this rate, it is necessary to educate yourself and others around you of the effects of mental illnesses.

There are several ways to help break the stigmas associated with mental health. You can talk about your own mental health or mental illness publicly. We can also work to encourage people to give the same importance to mental illnesses that we already give to physical illnesses. Also, simply showing compassion and empathy for those living with mental health issues also helps, as does showing up for those who may need your support during difficult times.

There may even be instances where you identify the symptoms of mental illness in others, or someone confides in you about their struggles with mental health. Educating yourself to know the signs, and being equipped with resources for yourself and others can help to ease the stigma of mental health in our society. We can all provide a helping hand to point others in the right direction for mental health resources.

Lastly, we can be conscious of the language that we use. For example, when people refer to mercurial weather patterns as “bipolar weather,” that spreads misinformation about what bipolar disorder actually is and makes it harder for those living with the illness. Or when someone says they’re “OCD” because they spent two hours cleaning their house, they’re not engaging with an accurate representation of what obsessive compulsive disorder actually is—and if the person isn’t diagnosed with the disorder, then they shouldn’t refer to themselves as having it. By educating ourselves, we can be better aware of instances where people are referring to mental illnesses incorrectly or in harmfully casual ways.

References:
https://themighty.com/2019/07/horror-film-midsommar-stigma-bipolar-disorder/
https://mashable.com/article/bird-box-netflix-mental-illness-suicide/
https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers
https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/october-2017/9-ways-to-fight-mental-health-stigma
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health/art-20046477
https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/04/16/how-mental-illness-is-misrepresented-in-the-media

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If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty with mental illnesses and disorders, please connect with a licensed professional at MindPath Care Centers or elsewhere. The support is necessary and available to all who seek it.

Megan Comer, PA-C

Charlotte, NC

Ms. Comer’s goal is that her patients feel supported. Noted for her empathy and insight, she prioritizes treating all her patients with dignity and aims to provide a safe place where all clients can feel heard and cared for. Megan encourages everyone who she works with to feel free to discuss what is really going on in their lives so that she can help improve their overall quality of live. She has a strong background helping people who have chronic pain issues

Healthcare Begins with Mindcare™

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COVID-19 & FLU PRECAUTIONS

If you have suspected coronavirus symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care provider for recommended next steps. We are following CDC recommendations to wear face coverings. Please wear a cloth mask, if you have one, to the office. Be aware that your provider may also be wearing a mask for protection. If you have a scheduled in-office appointment at MindPath, but cannot attend in person either because you have symptoms or because you do not want to be in public, please call your MindPath office to switch your appointment to a telehealth visit where you can connect with your provider from your home.

New patients who are interested in telehealth or in-office appointments can call us at 877-876-3783 or self-schedule an appointment by clicking ‘schedule an appointment’ and selecting ‘telehealth‘.