Understanding And Talking About Mental Health Stigma And Mental Health Conditions

Sep 16,2021

Read Time: 10 minutes

The mind and body are linked, but conversations about mental health can be tougher than discussing physical health. Let’s work together to learn more about mental health stigma and mental health conditions – and how to talk about them.

Addressing Mental Health Stigma

People often use the term stigma to describe the shame or embarrassment some may feel about struggling with mental health. Stigma can hurt relationships, work, and family, and make a person who needs care more afraid to seek help.


Addressing mental health stigma is important because the very concept of shame makes it difficult for many individuals with mental health conditions to seek help. Studies show that about 75 percent of people with a mental health condition feel stigma.

How Common Are Mental Health Conditions?

Many people experience some sort of mental health condition in their lives and likely have a loved one, family member, or friend with an emotional or mental health condition. Yet, there is still stigma around issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, and bipolar disorder.

What Is Considered A Mental Health Condition?

The term mental health condition applies to disorders of the mind and can be as broad and wide as physical illness. Mental health conditions include event-specific issues that cause post-traumatic stress disorder, depression that is passed down from a parent to a child, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mental health issues can happen once, many times, or even be ongoing.


Examples of mental health conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders

How Can We Be More Aware Of Mental Health Conditions?

There are signs to watch for. Examples include:

  • Sudden social issues
  • Problems at work or school
  • Changes in sleeping, eating, or self-care
  • Excessive drinking or drug misuse
  • Mood changes


How Can I Help Myself?

Going to a primary care doctor might be the right first step for finding mental health help. Your primary care doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist. From there, the mental health professional will work with you to make a treatment plan. This can include counseling, therapy, medication, care without medicines, or a mix of treatments. They may suggest lifestyle changes, too, such as eating habits, exercise, or quitting smoking.


Working with a healthcare professional to identify a mental health condition will help get you on the path to treatment sooner. There is no shame in taking care of yourself. The more you learn about your disorder, the more empowered you will feel.


The Differences Between Mental Health And Behavioral Health

Everything from sleep to diet to exercise can affect your health. While we often consider the strength of our physical bodies, there’s another side of your well-being to consider – the way you think, feel, and act. These relate to your behavioral and mental health.


While many people use the terms mental and behavioral health interchangeably, there are subtle distinctions that matter when it comes to diagnosing and treating psychological issues. There are even different approaches to managing problems related to behavioral health versus mental health.


Negative behaviors don’t always accompany these mental health conditions. Most everyone with depression, for example, experiences sleep issues. But not everyone develops a behavioral disorder. When a distinct, regular behavior that goes beyond the scope of a typical mental health condition begins to negatively affect someone, it becomes a disorder that typically requires more specific behavioral health treatment.

How To Talk About Mental Health With Compassion

It’s important to use care and show compassion when discussing mental health. Remember, people generally don’t want a mental health condition any more than they want a physical one. A person doesn’t choose depression, just like they don’t choose heart disease.


Think about labels. We often treat people with cancer or other physical health issues as heroes. We use terms like brave and strong to describe their battle with the disease. People with mental health conditions are more likely to hear harmful terms like paranoid and delusional, and that they are suffering from their disorder. This may make those with mental health condition feel hopeless.


We shouldn’t define people by their mental health condition. Instead, we should keep in mind that they have one. For example, a person is not schizophrenic – they have schizophrenia. Just like a person has the flu – but is not a flu. Referring to people as an illness reduces their ability to see themselves as separate from it.