END THE STIGMA: MEDICATION
Living with mental illness comes with various obstacles that most do not understand. Although we have made strides towards understanding and acceptance, there is still much room for growth in how society perceives those living with mental illness. Society has deeply rooted negative beliefs that put labels on those living with mental illness and label them as being “different.” Stigmatizing mental health roots from misconceptions that people with mental illness are dangerous or that their illness is self-inflicted. These prejudicial attitudes lead those with mental illness feeling a lack of social support, poor self-esteem, and they hinder their quality of life. Not only is mental illness often looked down upon, but those actively in treatment are treated negatively for reaping the benefits of the medication.
Words can have a significant impact on how a person feels. Common phrases such as, “are you off your meds?” or “taking medication is a sign of weakness” or “have you tried yoga?” are demoralizing and undermine the resilience of those who have worked hard to follow their prescribed treatment plan and do their due diligence to improve their lives. If an optometrist prescribed your glasses, you would wear them to improve your vision and would not be shamed for being “weak.” Antibiotics are prescribed for infections, corticosteroid inhalers are prescribed for asthma, and chemotherapy can be prescribed to treat cancer. So then, how is being prescribed anxiety or depression medication any different?
In some cases, those who are initially prescribed medication may be hesitant because of the possible side effects. They should be aware that finding the correct medication and dose may take some time, but once the appropriate medication regime is found, the benefits can be significant. For some individuals, medication is the only way for them to ameliorate their symptoms and function in their daily lives. For others, medication is the missing link that catalyzes the most progress in treatment. An effective treatment plan should be based on an individual’s needs, their specific medical considerations, and their mental health professional’s expert opinion. It is important to note that prescribed medication should be taken as directed by your psychiatrist and should not be halted without consulting a professional.
Stigmatizing medication can have unfavorable effects on treatment outcomes while deterring social support and inclusion. Stigmatizing and discriminating against people with mental health illnesses leaves people living with these conditions feeling excluded, shame, or social rejection for health problems that are not within their control. Individuals with mental illness who are able to overcome the stigma and are following the recommendation of their treatment team are resilient and should be better supported.