The Power of Mental Health Labels to Help/Hurt

The Power of Mental Health Labels to Help/Hurt

Labels are a significant part of daily life and often used as an organizational method. For example, you may label your spice jars in the kitchen to avoid surprises when cooking. However, applying labels to people can have mixed results. Being assigned a label can feel like a judgment on your character or personality. Even if the person labeling you doesn’t have harmful intentions, they may not realize how it affects your identity or way of interacting with the world. The power of labels shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially when describing mental health issues.

Unfortunately, many mental health disorders are still stigmatized and poorly misunderstood by the public. For some, receiving a diagnosis is helpful, while others may struggle to process how this new label affects their identity. Keep reading to explore the effects of labels and how they can impact mental health treatment.

The Benefits of Labels for People

Labeling a specific illness can be beneficial in the medical industry, especially if treatment or lifestyle changes are needed. For example, discovering you’re allergic to peanuts informs you to stay away from them or seek immediate medical attention if they’re accidentally consumed. While a mental illness diagnosis may be jarring, it can also carry a sense of hope and promise.

Diagnoses are used to identify illnesses, allowing health care professionals to prescribe the appropriate treatment to alleviate symptoms and help patients maintain their overall health and well-being. Labeling a mental illness is meant to acknowledge it as a treatable condition. This can be helpful for people who’ve struggled with certain mental health symptoms or felt different from others and believed it was a character defect or flaw.

Receiving a mental health label can also connect people with support groups, allowing them to build community with others sharing similar struggles. This can help you feel less alone or isolated, positively impacting the treatment process.

The Power of Labels: How They Can Contribute to Stigma

Over the years, Americans have gained more positive views of mental illness. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 87% of respondents believe having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. However, 86% of respondents also claim the term “mental illness” carries a stigma.

Many harmful mental health misconceptions are circulating, such as that mental illness is a personality weakness, makes people dangerous or violent and is something people can just “snap out of” whenever they want. A mental health diagnosis may cause some people to fear losing their jobs or being judged by family and friends. It can also result in harmful consequences such as:

  • Reluctance to seek treatment
  • Social isolation
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities
  • Trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, harassment or physical violence
  • Inadequate health insurance coverage for mental health treatment
  • Lack of self-esteem or believing you can never improve your situation

Mental health labels also have the potential to increase symptoms. For example, if someone believes a certain bad behavior results from a specific mental illness, it may influence further bad behavior. They may also struggle to overcome preconceived notions of specific mental illnesses, even after being diagnosed with one. This can lead to treatment avoidance or self-destructive behaviors as coping mechanisms.

How Do Labels Affect Our Identity?

With both positive and negative labels, a person’s identity can change when a specific term or word is applied to them. If you were labeled an intelligent child, it may have boosted your self-esteem and encouraged you to work hard in school. However, this same label can also create a sense of perfectionism and the need to always succeed, meaning one bad test grade can result in feeling like a failure, disrupting the identity you’ve held since childhood.

Power labels can also cause people to lose their sense of identity. For instance, a mental health diagnosis can help people connect with others, but it can also reduce a person to a simplified label, causing them to feel less like an individual and more like part of a collective group or set of symptoms. Some people may struggle to perceive themselves as a whole person and get stuck on their label, making navigating the world as their authentic selves difficult.

This lack of personal identity can increase psychological distress and negatively affect a person’s treatment outcome. However, a person-centered treatment approach that avoids one-size-fits-all methods and encourages individuals to view themselves as more than their labels can make a difference.

The Importance of a Person-Centered Approach and Mental Health Literacy

The power of labels affects everyone’s mental health differently, making a person-centered treatment approach crucial. Labeling a mental illness can be useful in determining next steps, but using a one-size-fits-all treatment method isn’t always effective in helping people overcome specific struggles.

When mental health professionals engage with a patient on a deeper level, that person may become more comfortable sharing personal details, helping them better understand who they are. Their mental health label then becomes a small part of their identity rather than the whole thing.

Public access to mental health literacy can also make labels less scary by providing accurate information and clearing up harmful misconceptions. This can encourage healthier, more productive conversations about mental health, encouraging more people to share their stories. Education is crucial in removing the stigma associated with mental health. When that stigma is removed, more people may feel empowered to seek treatment and get the help they need.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Mental Health Treatment

Fear of labels and mental health stigma can make it difficult to reach out for help. However, speaking to a mental health professional can provide the support you need. Mental health treatment offers many benefits, including:

  • Building relationship skills
  • Healing from past pain or trauma
  • Changing behaviors holding you back
  • Strengthening self-confidence
  • Coping with symptoms
  • Enhancing problem-solving skills

At Restore Mental Health, we’re committed to providing a person-centered treatment approach to help you uncover the root cause of your mental health issues. Contact us today to speak with a trained counselor and learn how our treatment services can help you build a better life.