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Erasing stigma needed in mental health care

Family, community attitudes deter depressed, suicidal people from getting effective help

By
3:03pm, October 13, 2016
sad kids

SHAME GAME  Close ties among residents of one affluent town have led to intense pressures for kids to achieve and keep emotional troubles to themselves, contributing to a recent string of suicides, researchers say. Stigma that discourages help-seeking also arises in the families of many depressed individuals, other scientists find.

Scientists, politicians, clinicians, police officers and medical workers agree on one thing: The U.S. mental health system needs a big fix. Too few people get the help they need for mental ailments and emotional turmoil that can destroy livelihoods and lives.

A report in the October JAMA Internal Medicine, for instance, concludes that more than 70 percent of U.S. adults who experience depression don’t receive treatment for it.

Much attention focuses on developing better psychiatric medications and talk therapies. But those tactics may not be enough. New research suggests that the longstanding but understudied problem of stigma leaves many of those suffering mental ailments feeling alone, often unwilling to seek help and frustrated with treatment when they do.

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