Apr 4

How Can Mental Health Stigma Lead to Drug Addiction? [Q & A]

Mental Health Stigma

There are many schools of thought when it comes to the topic of mental health. Growing awareness of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and even addiction has led to people taking a more serious view. 

Slowly but surely, people are starting to consider these ailments with the same degree of seriousness as physical ailments. However, there are still many who undermine the pervasive nature of mental health problems in our society.

Those that suffer from mental health issues are often affected by these conflicting views in their lives – whether it’s from family members, friends, the media, or their place of work or school. 

It’s important to consider the impact that exposure to these conflicting views has on the individual. Does it help or hinder them from seeking the help they need – particularly when it comes to drug addiction?

Research shows that the stigma surrounding mental health can actually hinder people from seeking the help they need. In this blog, we’ll be discussing why that is.

What Is Mental Health Stigma?

Even in today’s world, where we’re becoming more open-minded than ever before regarding the subject of mental illness, mental health stigma is still a very real problem.

Mental health stigma is defined as the negative way an individual is viewed or treated when they’re known or suspected to have a mental illness. 

Mental illnesses include such conditions as depression, drug addiction, and anxiety. As a whole, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem. That’s roughly 20% of the entire population. But even with so many people suffering from mental health issues, it still, unfortunately, carries a very strong stigma.

Mental health issues are just as real and detrimental as physical health issues. This stigmatization of mental health is the leading reason why so many people go undiagnosed and suffer unnecessarily. 

This stigmatization of mental health issues can lead to other issues, such as drug addiction. Drug or substance abuse is one of the most stigmatized mental health issues, as many people don’t understand, or refuse to acknowledge the fact that it’s a very real problem. They also fail to recognize its many triggers – particularly the stigma placed on mental health issues.

Why Is Mental Health Stigma Dangerous?

Mental health stigma in a variety of areas in an individual’s life can lead to a delay in seeking mental health or addiction treatment – if the individual seeks it at all!

Individuals may experience mental health stigma in the following areas:

  • Family members
  • Friendship group
  • Workplace
  • Culture & community
  • Doctors
EnvironmentMental Health StigmaRisk of Drug Abuse & Addiction
Family membersParents and other family members might dismiss conversations about mental health problems and undermine the severity of issuesDrug abuse and addiction to dissociate or suppress negative emotions stemming from a lack of understanding
Friendship groupFriends might neglect each other or tease each other for being vulnerable – especially among menUsing drugs to ‘fit in’ and disguise mental health symptoms
WorkplaceHigh-pressure work environment, lack of care from management about employee welfare, refusing sick leave for mental health reasonsPeople might use drugs to cope with stress and to unwind after work which can lead to addiction
Culture & communityCultural pressures around male strength and female suppression of emotions. Community refusal to believe in therapy.Using drugs to escape cultural pressures, which can then turn into an addiction to these substances
DoctorsThis is more of an extreme and uncommon scenario, but some old-school doctors might shy away from talking about mental health, and may undermine symptomsDrug addiction due to prescription drugs (opioids etc.)

Can Mental Health Stigma From Friends and Family Cause Drug Addiction?

mental health stigma

People that are close to those who suffer from mental health issues are in one of the best positions to help them. Unfortunately, they’re also in a position to hurt – even if it’s unintentionally.

When people in our personal lives, those that we’re closest to, view mental health incorrectly, it can negatively impact our lives. This can be especially harmful if your bond with certain individuals has a direct and strong bearing on your actions, behaviours, and how you come to view things.

Family and friends are the people in our lives that we usually turn to when we’re facing a problem. In healthy relationships, these people care for us in return and show that they only want what’s best for us. 

However, even if they have the best intentions at heart, if they view topics such as mental health issues in a judgemental light, or they hold onto strong bias, it will cause the sufferers to clam up about their feelings, thereby not seeking the help that they so desperately need.

Problems that stigma from family can cause include:

  • Reluctance to talk about or address the mental health issue
  • Delay in seeking help
  • Using substances to suppress feelings (i.e. alcohol, illegal drugs)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Just as a physical health issue will get worst if it isn’t addressed, the same occurs when it comes to issues with mental health. Regardless of what the people around you may think or say – it is a problem, and it does need to be addressed.

What if it’s not you that’s suffering from mental health issues, but rather, a family member? Statistics show that approximately 38% of Canadians had at least one family member who had a mental health problem. In this case, it’s important to try and get your family member the help they need as soon as possible.

How Is Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace Detrimental?

In the workplace, people may fear they’ll be viewed in a negative light or may be in danger of losing their jobs if their employer finds out they’re suffering from a mental health issue and are seeking help.

In fact, 39% of workers in Ontario wouldn’t tell their managers if they were suffering from a mental health problem. 

The problem with this is that unchecked, these mental health issues can lead to substance abuse issues, which in turn can lead to poor performance or behaviours at work – which could cause one to lose their job regardless. The stress of losing income can snowball into increased stress and even more, difficulty coping with the mental health issue.

Some individuals choose to self-medicate in order to cope with the stress of suffering from a mental health issue. Substances that may be used to self-medicate include:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Medications acquired without a prescription
  3. Illicit/Illegal drugs

Of course, self-medicating isn’t the answer, and can cause many mental health issues to spiral out of control. How can this situation be avoided?

According to PIPEDA Law, the details of personal information such as mental health problems need not be disclosed. This doesn’t mean to ignore the problem – but that it is possible to get the mental help needed, but in a discreet fashion.

Ways you can seek help and keep your job:

  • If time off is needed for an appointment, there is no need to disclose where or what that appointment is for. An individual may simply state that it’s medical, and leave it at that.
  • Focus on ‘outpatient’ services when you do seek help. This ensures that you’re still a contributing member of the community, while you get the help you need.

How Does Culture Play A Role In Mental Health Stigma?

Culture and mental health

While as a whole, mental health stigma is rather prevalent, it can be particularly strong in certain cultures.

Families and communities with roots in many different areas often have strong, yet antiquated views when it comes to mental health problems. When it comes to cultural background, there are several factors that contribute to the negative view of mental health issues and delaying or not seeking help at all.

Cultural IssueReason
ShamefulThere are many cultures that view your image or appearance in the community as being the most important thing. Those suffering from problems with mental health issues are often viewed as weak or shameful. They insist on hiding the problem instead of seeking the necessary help.
It Can Be ControlledOne of the most popular views is that mental health issues are all in the sufferer’s head and can be controlled if they’re ‘strong enough’. Anyone suffering from these issues will wholeheartedly disagree.
Lack of SupportBecause of these misguided notions, there is little no support for those suffering from mental health issues. What’s more, the extra stress from the family can actually worsen symptoms and lead to substance abuse.
Lack of ResourcesThe area where individuals of certain cultures live can also play a factor. Because of the culture’s general view of mental health issues, there may be no help available in their area, or they’re ashamed to seek help close to home and are forced to seek help elsewhere.

The individuals who promote this strong stigma may even suffer from mental illness themself – whether or not they’re aware of it. 

Anyone suffering from a mental health issue or any form of addiction knows that these views can be very upsetting, as well as misguided. Mental health issues cannot be easily controlled – and there is no shame in this. 

Unfortunately, these negative views are often passed down from generation to generation, becoming an even more difficult stigma to overcome. Individuals aren’t just faced with ridicule from their immediate family members, but also extended family. 

This presents an extra stressor that could exacerbate the mental health issue even further, and cause one to seek solace in the very substance they’re trying to avoid. In an attempt to escape the pain of their mental health issue, and the severe lack of understanding, individuals often search out substances that numb the pain – the most popular being alcohol, illegal drugs, and the abuse of prescription painkillers. 

Starting out as only a temporary solace, consoling themselves eventually turns into a habit. As tolerance grows, one eventually needs more and more of the substance, turning into a habit that’s hard to break.

Overcoming this is daunting – however, it is not impossible. There are a few options one may consider when dealing with antiquated community views, yet still seeking the help they need:

  • Discuss the problem calmly with a close friend or family member in the community. Some may be willing to listen and keep your concern confidential.
  • Seek help, but keep it private until you get strong and confident enough to address the issue with other members of the family or community – if you decide to. 
  • Choose an Interventionist that can help explain the situation to your family so that they can better understand the seriousness of the situation.

How Can Physical Health Play A Role In Mental Health Stigma?

Mental health issues are already beyond stressful, but what if you suffer from a serious physical health issue as well?

Health issues such as diabetes, paralysis, and cancer can also exacerbate one’s mental health issues. Not only are they an additional stressor, but they can also make it more difficult to seek help.

In terms of paralysis, if the individual has to seek help in-person, transportation may become an issue. Or in the case of someone that suffers from cancer, balancing out time for chemotherapy and mental health therapy can be daunting. 

If medication is necessary, those suffering from certain physical ailments that also require medication, have to be aware of drug interactions. While your medical provider will determine what you can safely take depending on what your needs are, sometimes adjustments have to be made. If the physical ailment involves pain, one may begin to abuse their painkillers in an attempt to get relief.

Sometimes the physical ailment isn’t your own, but that of someone else. If someone close to you is suffering from a serious physical ailment, it can make it even more difficult to cope with mental health issues – especially if you’re the one caring for your loved one. The stress of caring for someone else may also drive them to turn to substances for emotional relief. 

Why Does Income Play A Role in Mental Health Stigma?

Unfortunately, Canadians that have a low income are 3 – 4 times more likely to have fair to poor mental health. This could result from a variety of reasons such as:

  1. Less access to mental health services
  2. Problems securing affordable childcare so they can seek treatment
  3. Societal limitations
  4. Fear of missing work or time at work

These factors can present a real challenge to those who need help. Overcoming these factors requires a good deal of assistance – some assistance that individuals may not have access to. 

While the cost of mental healthcare and addiction help is rarely an issue, access often is. Certain areas associated with families in a lower income bracket may not have access to mental healthcare – or good, quality mental healthcare.

The struggle to find help with mental issues can leave many without the help they need.

Different Types of Drug Addiction Treatment

If mental health issues aren’t addressed in a timely fashion, it can, unfortunately, lead to drug addiction. However, all hope is not lost – but time is of the essence. It’s important to get help as soon as possible to lessen the negative effects on one’s life and health.

When it comes to reaching out and getting treatment for their drug addiction, there are a variety of options available. These may be used individually, or as a combination of these – depending on your specific situation. 

Seek out a qualified Interventions Center. After meeting with you, and assessing your situation thoroughly, your Interventionist can determine what would be the best routine and course of action.

Some options for treatment include:

  1. Behavioural Counseling
  2. Withdrawal Management
  3. Medication
  4. Continuing/Follow-Up Care

Behavioural Counseling

This could be accomplished on either an outpatient, or inpatient basis – depending on the severity of the addiction and how it affects your life, and the life of those around you. 

A majority of individuals choose outpatient services as it presents the least amount of disruption to the life of the sufferer, as well as those around them like friends, family, and co-workers.

Those who do outpatient services are still out and about, living their lives in the community – going to work or school, then going back to their home. As being a healthy part of the community is the goal, this is the most preferred option.

Counseling works by helping the individual figure out what led to the problem with substance abuse in the first place. Counselors help identify any childhood traumas, thought processes, and factors both internal and external that may have contributed to the start, and continuation of the problem with substance abuse.

As time goes on, it helps the individual also learn how to build self-esteem, and the mindset needed to beat addiction.



Depending on the severity of the addiction, or other mental health issues that may be occurring, medication may be prescribed in order to facilitate recovery.

This can be particularly helpful if drug addiction has caused, or may lead to other health problems. These non-habit-forming medications can also help with withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for you to stay on the path to success.

Medication may be prescribed either on a short-term basis, or long-term for the management of symptoms. Your Intervention Program will work with qualified health professionals to give you the most helpful and beneficial solution.

Continuing/Follow-Up Care

Addiction help doesn’t stop after you’ve made significant progress. The key to continued success is to have that continued support throughout life. 

Continuing care ensures that a counselor and/or a doctor follow-up with you at regular intervals to monitor your progress, and to help with any problems that may arise. This help includes your family as well.

Those that suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues rarely suffer alone. The whole-family support is needed to make sure that everyone stays on the same page with care, treatment plans, and how to avoid any future relapses.

Life can be tough, and things that come up could lead to the pain of relapse. A caring, concerned Interventions Program that’s willing and ready to help no matter what comes up, will help make sure that the road to recovery is smooth sailing.

How To Get Started With Drug Addiction Intervention In Canada

The first and most important step is acknowledging that you have a problem with drug addiction and that you need help. The next is searching out how and where to get treatment and help.  

Once you’ve decided to seek treatment, though the first few steps are crucial – it’s important to remember to take things one day at a time. Especially if you struggle with anxiety as well, feelings of being overwhelmed can lead to backsliding and may even cause a delay in seeking treatment.

Start with visiting our site to find an Intervention and Addiction program in your area. 

With Andy Bhatti Addiction Services, you never have to feel alone. They offer help that goes above and beyond, offering family counseling and even job security so that all you have to concern yourself with is getting and staying on the road to recovery. They’re with you every step of the way, and even offer 48-hour emergency intervention all across Canada.

They even work with treatment centers such as Aurora Recovery Centre, Cedars at Cobble Hill, and Sunshine Coast Health Centre to set you up with the best program and treatment options for your specific needs.

One such program and center is Andy Bhatti Interventions and Addiction Services. The program was started by Andy Bhatti, who after struggling for over a decade with heavy drug use, made changes and overcame it – and he wants you to do so as well. 

The first step is up to you. Contact Canada Drug Rehab today and begin the journey to recovery. 

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