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Chatting About Stigma

Millions of people all around the world are affected by the widespread and severe issue of mental health stigma. Stigma is the discrimination, social isolation, and diminished access to resources and services faced by those who live with a mental illness because of the unfavourable attitudes and views of others.

Developing a sense of shame about oneself is a major effect of being stigmatized. Feelings of shame, remorse, and low self-esteem can develop when people with mental illness absorb the negative attitudes and ideas held by society about their disease. Reluctance to seek care as a result of internalized stigma can exacerbate social isolation and mental health problems.

The effects of stigma on mental health are not limited to the individual experience; social stigma is also a factor. As a societal phenomenon, "institutional stigma" describes how organizations like hospitals and governments uphold harmful stereotypes about people who suffer from mental illness. As a result, people with mental illness may face difficulties obtaining treatment, receive subpar care, or face a shortfall of available services.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community who additionally struggle with mental health stigma have an especially heavy load. Homophobia, transphobia, and stigma associated with mental illness were all identified as sources of discrimination for those who identify as LGBTQ+ and suffer from severe mental illness in a study by Clement et al. (2015). This can raise the likelihood of social isolation, poor health outcomes, and even suicide.

Enter Telemedicine

Providing anonymity and privacy to patients is a major strength of telemedicine that relies on text communication. Instead of having to visit a doctor's office or hospital, which may be a daunting experience for many patients, they can communicate with mental health specialists from the comfort of their own homes. Individuals who are concerned about being judged or stigmatized may discover that telemedicine provides the pseudo-anonymity they need to seek care.

Patients may also have more options for when they may attend their appointments, thanks to text-based telemedicine. When it comes to mental health, people who have other commitments, such as work or family, may appreciate the flexibility of services that can be provided outside of typical business hours. Because patients may get mental health care when it's most convenient for them, they don't have to worry about the stress and anxiety that might accompany regular doctor's visits.

The use of text-based telemedicine can also be very useful for addressing the most vulnerable, such as those in remote areas or who are unable to leave their homes.

Last but not least, several forms of mental illness, such as depression and anxiety disorders, have been proven to respond positively to digital mental health therapies. Telemedicine has been shown to be as successful as face-to-face therapy, especially for specific groups like college students and veterans.

The good news is that text-based telemedicine has the potential to ameliorate the negative effects of stigma on mental health and increase access to treatment. It's a hopeful strategy for improving mental health treatments because of its anonymity guarantee, appointment scheduling versatility, capacity to reach underrepresented people, and efficacy.

The following authors and publications are cited in this article:

Arafat, S. M. Y.; Karim, M. E.; Marzan, M. A.; Hoque, M. R.; and Hoque, A. (2021). The psychological foundations of prejudice and discrimination: The example of mental illness.

Wollenburg, J., Wies, B., and K.A. Kasiak (2021). The use of technology in mental health care: a systematic review and synthesis. Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4), 1754, International Journal.

Gros DF, Morland LA, Greene CY, Acierno R, Strachan M, Egede LE, Frueh BC (2013). Using video telemedicine technology to provide psychotherapy that is supported by scientific evidence. 506-521 in the 35th issue of the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment.

Clement, S.; Schauman, O.; Graham, T.; Maggioni, F.; Evans-Lacko, S.; Bezborodovs, N.; Morgan, C.; Rusch, N.; Brown, J. S. L.; Thornicroft, G. (2015). How does prejudice against someone with mental health issues influence their willingness to ask for assistance? An in-depth analysis of empirical research, both quantitative and qualitative. 11–27 in Psychological Medicine 45(1).

N. Rusch, M. C. Angermeyer, and P. W. Corrigan (2005). Stigma in mental health care: an overview of its causes, effects, and efforts to alleviate it. The European Journal of Psychiatry

Yanos, P. T., Lysaker, P. H., and Roe, D. (2010). The role that sickness perception plays in getting better after a serious mental breakdown. 13(2), 73-93 in the American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.

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