Why is mental health seen as a taboo?

Why is mental health seen as a taboo?

Why is mental health seen as a taboo? – While research shows that an estimated 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, mental wellness remains something of a taboo subject in 2024. Unfortunately, the stigma stops many people from talking about their issues or seeking the professional help that they deserve.

If you are suffering with your mental health or suspect that a loved one is experiencing problems, understanding the reasons why it’s still considered taboo is a valuable first step to managing the situation and getting yourself better. Here’s all you need to know.

People are afraid to open up

The collective understanding of mental illness has grown exponentially over the past decade or two, which is why the sustained stigma can be hard to fathom. Ultimately, though, one of the biggest problems is that people are afraid to speak about their mental health struggles due to fears of what other people might think.

Opening up about ill mental health shows vulnerability, and many people worry that it will be viewed as a weakness by friends, family, and peers. Thankfully, online therapy sessions offer people a chance to seek professional support without worrying about people in the local area learning that they’ve reached out for help.

Most people will subsequently become more comfortable with opening up as a result of therapy. Once more people stop fighting their battles alone, it will no longer feel taboo. 


Self-denial is another common reason behind the taboo. Even when experiencing mental health problems, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s something that everyone has. After all, the fact you don’t speak to people about their mental wellness makes it virtually impossible to compare your mindset with what’s “normal”. 

Similarly, we all encounter difficult moments in life. So, you could easily fall into the trap of thinking it’s just a phase. Sadly, ongoing negative feelings are a sign that something isn’t right. Even if you are not ready to have discussions, reading up on mental health news and recognising the traits you show will help. Now is the time to take control.

Ultimately, though, you can’t get help unless you admit that it is needed. Self-acknowledgement is essential to beating the individual and cultural taboos.

Why is mental health seen as a taboo?

Inaccurate stereotypes

Stereotypes can influence public perceptions in a very negative way, not least when dealing with mental illness. Most people are introduced to mental health conditions through media portrayals before they ever meet someone with the illness. In many cases, people form harmful and inaccurate opinions that are very hard to shake. 

After all, the harsh reality is that mental illness has been associated with violence and bad behaviour for many generations. TV producers and other media companies do now tend to show responsibility through heightened sensitivity towards conditions. Nevertheless, the damage caused by stereotypes is a major contributor to the stigma.

A greater understanding of mental health issues via accurate portrayals and reporting is the only way to tackle them. Things are moving in the right direction, but there is a long way to go.

The illness can’t be seen

There is no escaping the fact that it is easier to talk about things that can be seen. Mental health matters can’t be seen, which makes it difficult for people to truly comprehend what the person is going through. This is especially true if you haven’t experienced the condition before, either personally or with a loved one, and can add to the taboo.

For the person who is experiencing poor mental health, expressing this in a way that a loved one can understand does pose a challenge. Not least when you don’t fully understand why you are feeling anxious, depressed, or in a bad place. Conversely, actively asking someone about their mental health can be seen as insensitive, rude, or offensive.

It creates a situation where many people won’t talk until the effects are visible. By then, though, the symptoms have grown. It would be far better to address the situation early.

Fear of embarrassing loved ones

A lot of people who experience paranoia or symptoms of other mental health issues would like to receive help. However, they are less concerned about personal embarrassment and more worried about the impact it can have on loved ones. For starters, they may worry that their mental health problems would bring shame to the family name.

Of course, this shouldn’t be the case, especially in a more empathetic era than ever before. Still, this does not alter the fact it enters the person’s psyche. Likewise, sufferers of poor mental health may worry that publicly addressing the issues could leave loved ones feeling at fault. The potential guilt complex for all parties does make it harder to talk.

Therapy and other treatments are the only way to restore mental wellness. It might be hard to start the conversation. But once you do, you’ll never look back.

Poppy Watt

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