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Survey: mental health challenges lead to discrimination

Californians with mental disorders lack support BY VIJI SUNDARAM SAN FRANCISCO (NAM)---Most California residents with mental health issues feel they have no public support. And the vast majority (81 percent) say they are discriminated against in the

Californians with mental disorders lack support

BY VIJI SUNDARAM

SAN FRANCISCO (NAM)—Most California residents with mental health issues feel they have no public support. And the vast majority (81 percent) say they are discriminated against in the workplace or in the classroom, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Researchers surveyed 1,066 people, 18 and older, who had previously reported mild to severe “psychological distress” in a statewide California Health Interview Survey.

“These high levels of perceived stigma may discourage individuals facing a mental health challenge from getting needed support from friends and family, the workplace, school and mental health professionals,” observed Eunice Wong, lead author of the report and a behavioral scientist at RAND. RAND Health is the nation’s largest independent health policy research program.

Wong noted that people with mental health disorders are “substantially burdened by self-stigma” that can lead to isolation. That, in turn, can further affect their emotional wellbeing.

“Our society hasn’t done much to de-stigmatize mental health issues,” lamented Dr. Manpreet K. Singh, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. That’s one of the reasons people may keep their mental disorder under wraps and delay seeking treatment. The prevalence of suicidal thoughts and depression in Asian communities, for example, is largely a result of fear of stigmatization, she said.

She said children and adolescents who come to her for treatment generally do so after “they reach a point of impairment.”

But the RAND study also found that most Californians are showing signs of resiliency. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they have a plan for how to stay or become well. They believe they can meet their personal goals.

Mental health policy experts believe that this resiliency could stem from California having taken a leadership role in innovative mental health prevention strategies. About one-third of those surveyed had been reached during the prior 12 months, as part of the early intervention efforts mounted by the California Mental Health Services Administration (CalMHSA), which is working closely with counties on programs to reduce stigma and encourage people to seek early intervention.

CalMHSA’s early intervention campaign has been supported by the state’s Mental Health Services Act of 2004, under which the state dedicated significant funding to provide mental health treatment at the community level for individuals with serious mental health challenges, especially in the early stages.

Those programs have been showing positive results, according to the RAND report.
“[Prevention efforts] are beginning to make a difference toward reducing stigma and empowering people to prevent mental health problems,” said RAND behavioral scientist Nicole Eberhart, in a press statement released earlier this year.

“California has demonstrated leadership,” Wayne Clark, CalMHSA’s executive director is quoted in the press release as saying.

Singh believes that the key to reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness is to educate people that it is a brain-based disorder and not a character flaw. She said she herself educates all of her patients and their families about this.

“There’s a great deal of science behind mental illness, and we’ve got to stop the stigma with science,” Singh said.

Such organizations as the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation have been spreading this message with its “Know Science. No Stigma” campaign, she pointed out.

CalMHSA sponsored the study, which was conducted independently by RAND.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.

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