Mental Health — we all have it, and now we should all strive to be more open and vulnerable about it. 

TheraPieces* is a Slice of Culture monthly column by Mendez, a graduate student pursuing her Master of Social Work degree in clinical/medical social work.

Stigma. 

The word itself weighs down many different meanings, negative connotations,and presumptions to it. 

What actually is stigma though?

Besides it being a word that means to place negative assumptions upon a person, circumstance, or belief, stigma can be defined as “an assimilation or stereotype that is put down in a negative way or term by an individual or group of people. ” 

In other words, a thought or saying that is believed to be negative that a society has assumed upon a person or group of people.

It can be the co-occurrence of its components and can be identified as 

  • Labeling
  • The relationship between an “attribute or stereotype”
  • Discrimination
  • Leading to gaslighting a person’s experience, condition, and/or feelings

Take the topic of mental health for example. 

There is a lot of stigma surrounding it and it can prevent a lot of people from seeking professional help or even wanting to be open about their own.

This should not be the case, and should be normalized to helping others growing through difficult situations just as normal as it is to seek medication for a cold.

Mental Health shouldn’t be associated with something like that. 

It is important that we bring education and spread awareness about the effects of stigma surrounding mental health.

Some of these effects include:

  • Feeling shameful, isolated and humiliated
  • Reluctance to seeking the proper help or treatment
  • Any type of assault or harassment
  • Not being understood by close friends, families, and/peers

There comes a lot of unnecessary power when it comes to stigma, but there is power in dismantling it as well. 

(Courtesy of NAMI)

Dismantling stigma can look like many things, but first things first is to always state when something is being unfairly associated as a downgrade, such as bringing those down with mental health related issues and educating those who may not understand that it is completely okay to get help. 

It is completely okay to seek treatment. 

Mental health illnesses are no reason to be ashamed or to receive backlash. 

If you see stigma or any forms of harassment related to stigma, do not be afraid to speak out to your local communities regarding the issue. 

All it takes is one voice. 

For information on speaking out against stigma, click here.

“For stigma to occur, power must be exercised.”

If you want a specific topic related to mental health covered, Daniella Mendez may be reached at dm3728@columbia.edu.

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