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Mental Health in the United States of America: A Social Stigma



In this academic article we will state mental health conditions in the social issues of the race, gender, sexuality, social prejudice and class. This article would have an elaborate detail of how health care in the United States deals with mental health of the Americans and compare the healthcare policies of around the world with the American health care system. This article will not only realize the factors through a social lens but would also be accompanied with statistical data of how mental health is affected by such factors and what measure were taken to prevent it or recognize it. This report will discuss all variables leading to mental health illness. Apart from the elaborate debate and discussion, the audience to which it addresses to is also explained. The scope of this article also includes the possible solutions and amendments in the current health care law.


The State of Mental Health in the United States of America

​​ Studies shows that about 1 in 5 people suffer from mental illness each year in the United States of America. Depression, Bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are some of the mental illness that about 42.5 million adults suffer from which makes about 18.2 percent of the total adult population the America, a statistical data released by Friday reveal. ​​ According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health services Administration (SAMHSA) about 9.3 million adults (also includes people from aging 18 and above) whose mental health decreases day after day and their daily activity impedes for example going to work etc.​​ (Biekiemps, 2014).​​ 

Mental Illness the​​ Highest in the U.S

It is not secret that the mental health in the America is widespread than anyone else around the world which include all sorts of psychological issues despite of being many treatment options available in the U.S.​​ According​​ to​​ the efforts​​ and studies​​ put up by the World Health Organization,​​ the mental illness around the globe according to which U.S is on top.​​ According to this catalogue by WHO only 41.1 percent of the Americans receive treatment for mental illness​​ What are the disparities that makes the U.S to be on the top?​​ (Alice G. Walton, 2011)​​ The disparities​​ and the correlations​​ involved in the mental health in the U.S are stated below.​​ We study these disparities and look through the social lens through the 4 tools.

Racial or Ethnic Disparities in the Mental Health

According to the first tool by Weberian social action racial or ethnic disparities could be analyzed in this topic. Mental illness is pervasive in the United states of America and racial/ethnic disparity is one such variable that’s dependent on.​​ A study held in California states that although there​​ are​​ positive measures to bring about a just mental healthcare​​ but Asian-Americans and Latinos (survey held in Spanish) said that they were not receiving the treatment they needed. Hence making the racial or ethnic minorities are less likely to have a proper treatment than the whites and even if they do, they are most “likely” to drop out. Some of the studies shows mixed findings whether the ethnic/racial differences among the general population​​ is widespread​​ in the United States of America is highly stigmatized than​​ in​​ the whites.​​ Different studies show different results​​ which has been persistent through time​​ because it focuses on different aspect of stigma.​​ (Rand Health Q. , 2017).

Gender Disparities in Mental Health​​ 

According to the second tool the stereotypes and the stigmatization that women seek more medical attention in men is shown by the studies;​​ based on the relationship between sex and seeking medical attention related to emotional disorder or psychiatric behaviors shows​​ that​​ men are more likely to seek help than​​ women​​ when symptoms are imposed.​​ This shows that between the sexes, perceived mental health more than the presence would contribute to differentiate the likelihood of seeking help. ​​ According to studies, male employment is more likely to be affected on the likelihood of seeking medical attention.​​ (Rand Health Q. , 2017)

Social Class Disparities in Mental Health​​ 

The ascribed status of the population has a lot to do with the​​ mental health, according the third tool the “powerlessness” of the lower class and their inability to afford health insurance leads them to substance abuse on the streets where schizophrenia is​​ most common.​​ It is a fact that population’s health is affected in the economic recession. It is since the quality of life deteriorates when the country’s hit by recessions. But in the U.S the whole idea of “social” class is inconsistent in the American who basically shy away as per to the American ideal of the society.​​ (Rand Health Q. , 2017)​​ Hence credentials, “social imperialism”​​ and class has much ado with the mental health.​​ Studies cannot deny the fact that an average middle-class white person is less likely to be denied mental health care than the average middle-class African American person​​ which shows that there’s “exploitation” of the system that should be for everyone and that it racially marginalizes races not by it’s mental illness but by it’s class and social acceptability of it’s race​​ (Gilibert, 2016)

Why should Americans be​​ concerned with Mental Illness?

Mental illness​​ affects​​ everyone. According to a study in any classroom there will be at least two kids with ADHD which would in return affect the whole class and the instructor. In work, people suffer from depression or anxiety and people on the streets are prone to schizophrenia. This often leads to substance abuse, self-harm or crime. And people who cannot afford medical health insurance cannot seek help.​​ The unfortunate​​ events of​​ public shootings which is one of the many crimes and mental health is one of the main reasons leading into it. Recognizing, identifying and responsibly reporting​​ mental health illness should be a common practice among Americans and should be a part of their education​​ and that we practice a cognitive development so those who in a situation that would lead them to mental illness should be prevented before they are diagnosed. We need to increase the size of the audience to which we address this topic to, and we need them to educate themselves. So, we could prevent crime, substance abuse, suicide or self-harm​​ amongst people that are in absolute poverty.​​ And we could make them be acquainted with the facts and disparities involved in the mental health, so people have more options or encourage them that mental health care is not a stigma is a necessity and becomes part of the social norm and that more people start accommodating and stop alienating the people dealing with mental illness  ​​​​ ​​ (Davies, 2010)


What it means to have​​ Mental​​ Illness?

Most people with mental illness feel hopelessness and ask the question “why try” and do not feel the need to seek help.​​ We have discussed why mental illness should be a great concern and disparities that lead to mental illness but now we discuss what it means to have mental illness. Mental illness is a disease that cannot be cured with fancy machines or by operating. The cultural change in the America in the recent years finally recognizes medically prescribed drugs as a medium to treat mental illness and that it’s something that you cannot “deal” with it.​​ Almost one third of Americans are embarrassed to seek medical care and when symptoms are recognized immediate assistance should be sought from 911 or by other medical means.​​ (Mercado, 2017)

Depressions, anxiety, dementia, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are few of the 200 classified mental illness. ​​ And these are the following symptoms that needs to be recognized:​​ 

  • Confused thinking

  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)

  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows

  • Excessive fears and anxieties

  • Social withdrawal

  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • Strong feelings of anger

  • Strange thoughts (delusions)

  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations)

  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments

  • Substance use​​ 

A Public Stigma of Mental Illness

According to the fourth tool the organization that’s involved in bringing improvement in the overall mental health illness statistics here is the Federal government.​​ Although recently in the Trump Care Act congress did strip 24 million of Americans of its health insurance and it worsened about the treatment of mental health care. But the federal and state role of in the mental illness is highlighted in the laws that were introduced in the past.​​ The laws include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation​​ Act, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MPHAEA), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These laws address to a huge variation of issues which is then applied to a mass of groups and institutions like schools, treatment powers, insurance and employers. The federal protection involves themselves to protect the individuals and works to provide them with facilities like reasonable accommodation and help those who need it and it get’s it funds from the federal government for example mental health block grant the​​ MHBG in​​ building out their community mental health services.​​ (Editorial Board , 2017)

It’s a fact that over the decades the public awareness for mental health has increased substantially and there has been better treatment comparing with the past. But measures are still needed to be taken to improve and prevent crime that is lead by mental illness or substance abuse that is lead by mental illness.​​ 

A Solution not of Mental Illness but to Prevent it

“If only” is a term used by many after the post mortem of an incident and it’s “pre-mortem” by preventing such incidents to take place or help someone to recognize their state of mental illness earlier​​ laws needs to be amended to provide better mental health care for the public. Psychiatrists and psychologist should be a part of the work force of every organizations and institutes to help students and employers to reach out when they feel they have a problem.​​ According to the fourth rule the​​ organizations need to be more accommodating of it’s employers so the that the employers do not feel pressured or embarrassed, due to social competitiveness, of having a mental illness and that they do not lose their job if their mental illness could be treated. According to the theory of​​ structural-functional perspective by Talcott Parsons, the various parts of society that fits together to maintain equilibrium by sensitizing the topic of mental illness but not alienating those who are suffering, so that we are accommodating of them and help them but not embarrass them, despite of what class, religion and race they belong to. ​​​​ Which can only be implemented by educating every individual and bringing awareness and recognizing it​​ an​​ illness just as we recognize a heart attack and illness and something that could be cured with medications and treatments.​​ The media should discuss more on mental health illness and that it should involve itself to be more sensitive to them topic by bringing in more cases so that there is an overall social acceptability of the issue.​​ 

The limitations of the solutions proposed depend on how the ethnical construction of the society takes place. How sensitive the overall society is over this topic. The efforts could only be made but the overall results​​ depend​​ on the annual statistics dropping each year.​​ ​​ (Mercado, 2017)


Alice G. Walton, P. H. (2011, October 4).​​ Health: Why More Americans Suffer From Mental Disorders Than Anyone Else. Retrieved from www.theatlantic.com: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/10/why-more-americans-suffer-from-mental-disorders-than-anyone-else/246035/#slide6

Biekiemps, V. (2014, 2 28).​​ Tech and Science: NEARLY 1 IN 5 AMERICANS SUFFERS FROM MENTAL ILLNESS EACH YEAR. Retrieved from www.newsweek.com: http://www.newsweek.com/nearly-1-5-americans-suffer-mental-illness-each-year-230608

Davies, L. (2010, december 7).​​ Why should we care about mental health?​​ Retrieved from www.drsofamerica.com: http://www.drsforamerica.org/blog/why-should-we-care-about-mental-health

Editorial Board . (2017, May 4).​​ The Trumpcare Disaster. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/opinion/obamacare-house-vote.html

Gilibert, M. (2016, 7 25).​​ Mental Health: Let’s Talk About Culture, Race And Ethnicity. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-giliberti/mental-health-lets-talk-a_b_11149854.html

Mercado, M. (2017, May 10).​​ Most Americans Have Been Affected By Mental Illness, But Mental Health Stigma Is Keeping People From Getting The Help They Need. Retrieved from www.bustle.com: https://www.bustle.com/p/most-americans-have-been-affected-by-mental-illness-but-mental-health-stigma-is-keeping-people-from-getting-the-help-they-need-56958

Rand Health Q. . (2017, January 13).​​ Racial and Ethnic Differences in Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination Among Californians Experiencing Mental Health Challenges. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568160/



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