There are several reasons why someone may choose to stop their medications. They might be experiencing uncomfortable side effects. It may not be offering the benefits which were intended.
Or the person taking the medication might be experiencing a phenomenon called “pill shaming.”
Only half of the people who receive a schizophrenia diagnosis stick to their treatment regimen. Up to 60% of patients who take antidepressants stay on the correct dosage.
Although the reasons for not taking their medicine vary, the most troubling option is the negative stigma which society offers when mental illness is diagnosed. When you are sick, there is a perception that you are weak, crazy or both.
Pill shaming is one of the strongest deterrents to an individual continuing with their treatment plan when a mental health disorder is present.
What Does Pill Shaming Look Like?
Pill shaming happens when someone you love or trust offers a negative opinion about your decision to pursue treatment. Their views are often provided with disdain and disgust.
“You don’t need to take those pills,” someone might say. “You just need to get more sleep, reduce the stress in your life, or get more exercise.”
These opinions and statements are incorrect because an incorrect assumption is made. Taking pills does not mean that a person’s character is weak. It is not a reflection of someone’s ability to make it through a difficult situation.
Far too often, people refuse their medication because of the stigmas that society creates, even though that the perspective is based on assumptions instead of facts.
Because of the connections we have with one another on the Internet, there is also negative information found online that can weight people down. Even when you read some self-help books or attend mutual-help groups, the stigma of medication for mental health can be challenging to overcome.
The Role of Spirituality in Pill Shaming
There is a pervasive belief in the religious world than illness is evidence that God is punishing that person for a specific reason. Some even believe that mental or physical illness is evidence that God has abandoned that person.
When that perspective is pushed as fact, the result is directly linked to harmful outcomes. People who come from strong religious backgrounds often face higher rates of depression and a quality of life that is lower.
When religious practices focus on the positive elements of coping with stress, then the negative stigmas of pill shaming are reduced. The areas of the brain responsible for emotional responses are activated, which may create more stability for some.
If it focuses on the harmful elements, people struggling with an illness may be told that their salvation is at risk or that they shouldn’t come to church (or their religious place of worship) until God allows the illness to release.
We must be supportive of those who are struggling. Instead of looking down on people who take medicine, we should celebrate this decision. That way, we’re not adding even more to their personal struggles.