In 2022, there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness but it is less significant than ever before. People are far more aware of how common mental illness is and that it is not a sign of weakness. However, the stigma around addiction is still very strong.
Addictions, or substance use disorders, are mental illnesses. So why is the stigma not going away?
One reason may be that people still believe that changing our attitude towards addiction will make the problem worse. They assume that by treating recovering addicts with compassion we will encourage their behavior. However, that is like assuming that showing compassion to a person with heart issues will encourage them to have a heart attack!
The fact is that people still don’t quite believe that addiction is an illness rather than a form of bad behavior. The question is how we go about changing that.
The good news is that you can do your part to fight the stigma, even if it is just among your family and friends. Here are 3 ways you can help.
1. Speak About Addiction:
Many of us don’t speak about addiction because we fear the responses we will get. People may well disagree with us and tell us we are being naive. However, silence only makes their voices louder. If the people willing to speak about addiction all refer to it as a moral failing, this belief is reinforced in a society that is otherwise learning about mental health.
It is not easy to speak about addiction, but it is important that we do so. It does not have to dominate every conversation, but we should engage people about it when it comes up. If you have suffered from addiction, try being vulnerable with the people you trust and sharing your experience. This will have a greater impact than any public health campaign.
2. Show Compassion to Addicts:
Speaking about addiction in your day-to-day life will help reduce the stigma on a societal level. However, it is also important that we fight the stigma felt by those who are suffering from substance use disorders. Many individuals do not ask for help because they blame themselves for their illness. They do not see themselves as deserving of help.
If you know people who are struggling with substance use, show them compassion, empathizing with them regarding what they are going through. You don’t have to change the world, but helping one person accept themselves makes an immense difference in their life.
3. Support Content Creators:
There are a lot of people creating content – whether books, movies, TV series, or other forms of media – that addresses addiction in a healthy way. These creatives are shining a light on the subject through storytelling. This is an incredibly powerful tool in fighting the stigma.
You can support content creators simply by engaging with their creative output. If you find a book helpful, give it a positive review on Goodreads or Amazon. If a movie resonated with you, review it on IMDb.
These simple acts help amplify the stories being shared, contributing to the fight against the stigma surrounding addiction.