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Stigma of Mental Illness

Misconceptions about mental illness abound. As a result, stigma surrounds the issue and prevents some individuals from seeking help. In fact, nearly two-thirds of individuals with mental illness fail to seek help.

As society begins to better understand the causes and treatments of mental illness, the stigma lessens. Consider pellagra, a condition caused by a deficiency of niacin, a B vitamin. This illness, common in the early 1900’s, was considered a mental illness, because it caused delirium. When the cause of pellagra was revealed, its label as a mental illness was removed, and it was considered a "medical" diagnosis. Accordingly, the stigma associated with the illness was removed. Keep in mind, the symptoms of the disease did not change, only the understanding of the disease changed.

Understanding Mental Illness

The causes of mental illness are multifaceted. They include biological, psychological and social/cultural factors. Most people are comfortable with biological causes, because they seem to be beyond the control of the person afflicted. Psychological causes and, to a lesser extent, social and cultural causes, imply that the affected person is responsible for the illness. They indicate that the person is weak and that a stronger person would be able to overcome the problem.

To dispel this myth, again consider common medical ailments. Hypertension, strokes, heart attacks and diabetes are considered "medical" conditions with biological causes. However, each of these problems is impacted by psychological and social/cultural factors like stress and poor choices regarding diet and physical activity. Still, individuals with lifestyle-related diseases are not considered weak.

Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness

Mental illness is not the result of limited willpower or moral failing. A strong person cannot simply will himself to overcome a mental health problem. These are legitimate illnesses with complex causes, and they require professional treatment.

Contact Us

Delaying treatment for emotional or mental health concerns can be a costly option. Our CARE (Call Assessment Referral Evaluation) Team is available to handle calls and inquiries 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 812-476- 7200 or 1-800-947-6789 or email .

During a confidential assessment, one of our licensed mental health professionals asks pertinent questions and listens to the individual patient’s and his or her family’s situation and needs. The mental health professional then works with our psychiatrist to recommend the best course of care within Deaconess Cross Pointe and via a wide range of additional community resources.