As a society and as individuals, we find it easy to have empathy for someone who is suffering from physical illness. Diseases or conditions affecting the body’s physical structures or systems tend to be visible. Tend to be tangible. Physical ailments can usually be diagnosed through physical examinations. Symptoms can be traced back to known root causes and explained in straightforward terms we can understand.
Since we all have bodies, we can all relate.
Given this common understanding, it follows that public health discussions often default to the physical as well. While a critical aspect of public health, dialogue surrounding mental health is far less common. Unlike most physical disorders, mental health challenges are typically not well understood. This unfamiliarity can breed fear and fear, in turn, creates stigma. Stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. It causes negative stereotypes, discrimination, and prejudice against people based on some distinguishing characteristic or condition. Most importantly, stigma is one of the primary barriers to improving mental health outcomes.