Stigma Is Still One of the Biggest Challenges

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May is Mental Health Month, so we checked in with some members of the Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council to see what issues were impacting Texans with mental illness. They said that the stigma associated with having a mental illness is still one of the biggest challenges facing people.

There are many people who are not familiar with mental illness, and their view may be formed by something they came across in pop culture, like a movie. If the movie portrayed mental illness in a negative way, the person may come away with inaccurate perceptions and expectations about people with mental illness. Or, worse yet, they might be scared of people with mental illness.

“The risk of being misunderstood or judged may prevent a person from talking about their situation or seeking help,” said Britney De La Fuente, DRTx PAIMI Council member. “If a person can’t talk to somebody or get the help they need, they could end up in a crisis situation.”

A clear way to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness is to raise awareness about the topic so more people have an accurate understanding of it. “We need to raise awareness and educate people across the state so we can change perceptions,” said Lisa Gore, DRTx PAIMI Council member. “As perceptions change, we can focus on individuals’ capabilities and strengths instead of myths and stereotypes.”

Another way to reduce the stigma is to have conversations about mental illness. “In some spaces, mental illness is still a taboo or uncomfortable topic,” said De La Fuente.

As more conversations take place, the topic will become less uncomfortable, understanding will increase, and more people will begin to empathize with people with mental illness. And it’s already happening. “We’re already seeing progress with young people,” said Gore. “They’re having more conversations than ever before.”

The PAIMI Advisory Council is accepting applications until July 1, 2022, for a term beginning October 1, 2022. If you are interested in making a difference for people with mental illness in Texas, learn more on our PAIMI Advisory Council page.