While things are getting better, there is still stigma about both mental health disorders and addiction. A study in the journal Psychiatric Services assessed whether people had more negative views towards one or the other.
Half of participants were given a survey about their beliefs on drug addiction and half about their beliefs on mental health. 90% of participants were unwilling to have someone with drug addiction marry into their family. 59% of mental health survey participants felt the same way about people with mental health disorders. 63% of people did not consider discrimination against those with drug use disorder a serious crime; meanwhile, 38% didn’t consider discrimination against those with mental health disorders a serious crime.
The data continually showed that addiction—specifically drug addiction—carries more stigma than mental health disorders. 64% of respondents thought that employers should be able to deny jobs to people with drug addiction, while 25% felt the same regarding mental health disorders. 54% believed landlords should be able to deny housing to those addicted to drugs; regarding mental health disorders, that number was 15%.
While this survey was completed in 2013 and things have thankfully been changing since then, our society still holds particularly negative attitudes towards those who use drugs. Models like harm reduction have shifted that narrative a bit; it makes clear that everyone deserves safety and quality of life, regardless of whether they’re actively using drugs or what drugs they’re using.
Stigma creates cycles of shame that don’t help anyone, whether they’re struggling with their mental health or a substance use disorder. We’ve shared some destigmatizing terms for addiction here. We all should be aware of the words we’re using to describe both, and make sure we’re always recognizing people’s humanity. With more compassion, more people can get help and less people may struggle in the first place.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you find peace in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.