While June may be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness month, IU Health makes it a yearlong focus working with patients who struggle with PTSD daily. It’s important to bring awareness to PTSD as many people suffer from this very treatable condition and don’t seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.
Stigma is a negative attitude or disapproval of an individual or groups of people based on conditions that are perceived to be ‘deficiencies.’
Mental health disorders have a long -standing history of being stigmatized. Persons with depression are often stigmatized as being ‘lazy’ and ‘weak’ and those with anxiety disorders are often seen as ‘dramatic’, ‘hysterical’ or ‘crazy’. These misperceptions result in people not seeking help for mental health conditions and keeps them isolated.
It’s important to note that stigma is often the result of lack of education and awareness as well as fear. Stigma blames people for their mental health problems, even in the face of years of research that supports a connection between a person’s biology, psychology, and social environment.
How to Break the Stigma
Healthcare has been moving towards trauma informed care which recognizes the widespread impact of trauma and the signs and symptoms of trauma and PTSD. It seeks to understand and meet people where they are; it is compassionate and avoids judgment and harsh words or actions that could be re-traumatizing to an individual. In healthcare organizations, the practice needs to happen throughout every person in the organizations, not just the direct providers of healthcare.
Language is key to breaking down stigma. Words such as ‘crazy’, ‘lazy’, ‘junkie’, ‘schizo’, ‘nuts’ and ‘addict’ are harmful and hurtful. Use appropriate person first language such as ‘person with mental illness’, ‘person with PTSD’, ‘person with a substance use disorder’ or ‘person in recovery.’ Remind others of this when needed.
Education is key to breaking down stigma related to PTSD and other mental health issues. In organizations and in our personal lives, we can gently challenge our co-workers, friends and family when we hear inappropriate language or judgment related to people with PTSD, substance use disorders, and other mental health conditions. In the workplace, this could be related to staff burnout or stress. Creating a culture of awareness and feedback is critical to dismantling stigma.
You can also speak out and advocate for people with mental illness. Your local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter has several ways to help.
The National Center for PTSD has information and videos to help you understand the treatment options available and help you choose the treatment that’s right for you or a loved one.
If you or a loved one is in a crisis, there are resources available that can help:
- Veterans Crisis Line 800.273.8255 (press 1)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline 800.950.NAMI (6264)