Stigma is a fancy word for a common problem. It refers to the shame and self-doubt that people feel when they think they are ‘different’ from others.
Unfortunately, stigma is something that keeps many people from getting mental health treatment, substance abuse care, help for an unplanned pregnancy, or even help after a rape. Most of the time, when we hear about stigma, it’s when people are talking about adults. But, it’s about time we realize stigma isn’t just something adults deal with! The thing is, adolescents and teens are also very concerned with their identity, and spend most of this period of their lives trying to figure out ‘who they are’. Of course, this is complicated when they must try to sort out why they have to take medicine, why people are treating them differently, or why some friends even drop them.
So, what can we do? We have to start, adults and young people alike, by realizing that the problem is real, and that we can do something about it. Stigma is in part caused by the social environment. Start by creating an environment where it is safe to ask for help for whatever you need. No one would condemn the student who asks for help with homework. Why would we judge the student who needs medicine in order to focus on it?