Breaking the Mental Health Stigma

     Mental health issues are known to be looked upon as a shameful secret. Those who struggle hesitate to seek help. Some are afraid of being called “crazy.” They want to avoid being judged. The effects of stigma can be worse than the mental issue itself. This can lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness. “The stigma of mental health is perpetuated by a lack of identification. An understanding of how it presents in reality,” Clavette said. “Knowing how to spot warning signs and how to help is key. Reduce the ambivalence in responding to mental illness.”  

     The mental health stigma tends to be common among military veterans. Many veterans are reluctant to reach out for help. And many are left struggling. “Some veterans have disturbing memories. Which heightens mental health symptoms,” U.S. Marine veteran Gil Dionne said. “Some symptoms include high anxiety, frustration and depression.”

     “Breaking the mental health stigma for veterans can be a difficult task,” Hillegass said. “While in the military, veterans were likely to have been exposed to some stressful situations. Which makes readjusting to civilian life difficult. Veterans may feel that seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of weakness. That goes against how they have been trained in the military.”

     “A lot of veterans who don’t get help become addicted to drugs and alcohol,” Dionne said. “Some become homeless. A lot of them end up committing suicide. Getting out into the world seems chaotic after the military. When you get out, you feel lost.”

     Support for veterans is unique. It’s necessary to find the right treatment option. “There is a discouraging lack of professionals who are qualified to treat such a prevalent need,” Clavette said. “Mental health looks different for everyone and should be treated on an individual basis.”

     Fortunately, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs offers services tailored for the needs of veterans. “A lot of the people at the VA are veterans and can provide proper help,” Dionne said. “They know what they are talking about because they learned first-hand. They’ve been there.”

     With the right support, people can get better. Treatment can be effective no matter who you are. Many services are available. It’s important to reach out and seek help. “Education and conversations about mental health need to continue,” Hillegass said. “To eliminate the stigma attached to it for any population.”