Despite the increased openness in discussing mental health issues today, mainly due to the internet, social media, and a heightened awareness of the rise in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) diagnoses, the public health issue of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination towards mental disorders continues to persist. Over 50% of individuals diagnosed with mental disorders refrain from seeking help due to the associated stigma and concerns. These stigmas, prejudices, and discrimination can present subtly or blatantly, but regardless of their form, they are potentially harmful. Stigmatization by the community can result in individuals feeling unsafe to share their emotions in familiar or social settings, thereby complicating the process of seeking help. Moreover, limited access to mental health resources at schools or workplaces can amplify feelings of isolation, exacerbating mental health issues. At Integrative Health Care Center, we firmly believe that understanding, addressing, and ultimately eradicating stigma is paramount in assisting those battling issues such as depression. This approach increases the likelihood of individuals seeking help and prevents the escalation of mental illnesses.
Understanding Major Depressive Disorder
Understanding Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is pivotal in addressing the stigma of depression. This stigma, in many instances, arises from a lack of understanding about mental disorders. The National Library of Medicine cites a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), which states that since 2008, MDD has been the third leading cause of morbidity globally, and they predicted it will rank first by 2030.
Individuals diagnosed with depression commonly experience a consistently low or depressed mood, anhedonia (a decreased interest in activities once found pleasurable), feelings of guilt, worthlessness, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, psychomotor retardation or agitation, sleep disturbances, and suicidal ideation.
The DSM-5 specifies that to qualify for an MDD diagnosis, an individual must exhibit at least five of the symptoms above. Additionally, one of these symptoms must either be a depressed mood or anhedonia, and these symptoms must cause significant social or occupational impairment.
Research from Harvard University indicates that depression is more complex than a mere chemical imbalance. The study suggests that a combination of factors such as faulty mood regulation, genetic predisposition, and stressful life events could also trigger depression.
While there have been significant strides in comprehending the biology of depression, scientists still lack a complete understanding of this disorder. As research continues, our understanding of depression and its myriad causes will continue to evolve.
Stigma of Depression Effects
Major depressive disorder not only induces persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, irritability, guilt, or helplessness but also triggers shame, isolation, and marginalization due to the stigma associated with mental health. This stigma, arising from a lack of understanding or fear, not only fosters inequality but also suppresses outrage.
Research by The Lancet Psychiatry reveals that the effects of mental health stigma are widespread, impacting political enthusiasm, charitable fundraising, and the availability and support for local services. The research also suggests that if the Global Burden of Disease were to assess the impact of mental health consequences comprehensively, the percentage of years lived with disability attributable to mental illness might rise from 21% to 32%.
Researchers have identified three types of stigma:
- Public Stigma: This denotes negative or discriminatory attitudes that others hold about mental disorders. It represents the general population’s reaction to people with depression, anxiety, or any mental disorder.
- Self-stigma: Encompassing negative attitudes, including internalized shame, that individuals with mental disorders harbor about their condition. It is the prejudice that individuals with mental struggles direct towards themselves. Three components—stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination—can help us understand both public stigma and self-stigma.
- Institutional Stigma: This is more systemic and involves the policies of governmental and private organizations that intentionally or unintentionally limit opportunities for individuals with mental disorders. Examples include reduced funding for research on mental health or diminished mental health services compared to other forms of healthcare.
Stigma not only directly impacts individuals with disorders but also affects their loved ones who support them, including family members. The stigma surrounding major depressive disorder is particularly pronounced in some communities and can be a significant barrier to people accessing mental health care.
According to research from the World Psychiatry Association, the result of stigma and prejudice deprives people with mental illness of opportunities that define a quality life, such as good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory medical care, affiliation with a diverse group of people, lower self-esteem, and increased psychiatric symptoms. Angry prejudice can lead to withholding help or substituting medical care with services provided by the criminal justice system and to avoidance; for instance, employers may exhibit reluctance to hire people with mental disorders. Additionally, self-stigma and fear of rejection by others lead many people not to pursue life opportunities for themselves.
Addressing Stigmas Surrounding Depression
- Promote Professional Support and Mental Health Resources: Access to services for treating depression and other mental disorders is crucial for anyone grappling with these conditions. Recovery is possible, but it necessitates the proper support. Encouraging individuals to seek assistance and treatment through understanding rather than judgment is a way to foster empathy, break the stigma of depression, and underscore the importance of seeking help to navigate challenges.
- Foster Open Dialogues About Mental Health: Many individuals dealing with mental disorders internalize their emotions, which can exacerbate their condition. It is vital to create environments free from judgment, discrimination, and prejudice where people feel safe to express their thoughts and feelings. These open dialogues can provide guidance or encouragement, prompting individuals to seek help. Discussing mental health is essential as many people struggle to understand their thoughts and feelings, which may be symptoms of a disorder requiring attention.
- Educate on Available Therapies and Treatments: Fortunately, a wide array of treatments exists for mental disorders. For depression, options range from medication and psychotherapy to more modern alternatives such as Deep TMS therapy. Each treatment offers unique benefits that cater to individual needs, aiding in recovery.
- Highlight Positive and Personal Narratives: Changing how we talk about mental disorders like depression is critical to reducing discrimination. Sharing success stories and recovery journeys of those who have faced depression helps to counter negative stereotypes and shows that recovery is achievable. This approach also encourages open dialogue by allowing individuals to share their personal experiences safely and without fear of judgment.
- Advocate for Inclusive Policies: We all belong to communities, whether at work, school, or social groups. Promoting inclusion and equality for individuals with mental health issues can help reduce rejection. Advocating for the implementation of work and educational practices that support those living with depression can eliminate barriers and prejudice.
Integrative Healthcare Center: Dedicated to Breaking the Stigma of Depression
At Integrative Healthcare Center, we understand that the stigma of depression can be as detrimental as the disorder’s symptoms. We are committed to supporting those battling mental disorders and fervently strive to enhance awareness about the needs of individuals suffering from major depressive disorder and other mental conditions. We firmly believe that these efforts can effect change and potentially save lives.
To us, ensuring access to effective treatment is of utmost importance. We dedicate our efforts each day to guarantee that our Deep TMS services are readily available to everyone in Nashua, New Hampshire, and its neighboring regions who are wrestling with depression. Our FDA-approved treatment is safe, non-invasive, and designed specifically to alleviate the symptoms associated with major depressive disorder.
If you or a loved one are grappling with depression, we encourage you to call us at (855) 599-9987 or contact us online. We firmly believe that the proper support is crucial to reclaiming your life, and we stand ready to assist you on your journey.