Dr Steven Adelsheim Discusses Changing Stigmas Around Mental Illness in Young People

Steven Adelsheim, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, explained how the stigma surrounding mental health issues can cause delays in treatment, but the increased discussion of mental health on social media may make young people become more comfortable with discussing their experiences and seeking help.


What is the potential impact of stigma surrounding mental health, particularly in young people?

Well, stigma is a huge issue for many families when a young person’s developing a mental health issue. Many parents often feel blamed for their young child having a problem, so often there’s a great delay in young people accessing care. And for many of our youth, there’s a great deal of fear about recognizing a mental health issue.

I think one of the things that’s been positive about social media is that more young people are online getting mental health support, talking about their mental health issues, and as much as it’s not always sort of characterized in positive ways, many more young people are comfortable now talking about mental health conditions than many of their families and other adults are.

So I think we’re seeing that as a positive change, but I think recognizing that all of our families have at least 1 family member dealing with a mental health issue can do a lot in terms of breaking down the stigma, to whatever degree we’re all willing to acknowledge it and share that information with others. So then our young people will feel more comfortable getting the care they need, and their parents will feel less blamed and potentially allow the support for their young people to come earlier.
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