In praise of treatment

by Roger Verdon on February 15, 2010 · 0 comments

in addictions,stigma

Tiger Woods

Multiple media outlets report Tiger Woods has sought treatment for sex addiction.

If you are a well-known personality, rumors follow you everywhere, some true, some not so true. As an open and curious society, we are in the habit of attempting to analyze people’s lives from afar and in public. This spectator sport sells magazines, fuels talk shows and satisfies a certain voyeuristic need.  Celebrities sign up for a certain amount of personal intrusion. It’s part of the game. But there should be limits. Any individual, including personalities like Tiger Woods and others who are rumored to be in rehabilitation, ought to be applauded, not chided.

Recovery is difficult enough

The whole point of admitting oneself to a hospital is to acknowledge a problem–substance abuse, alcohol, computer or sex addiction, pain killers, or any number of other addictions that can plague individuals around the world–that needs addressing.

Hounding personalities, however famous, is harmful and counter productive. Getting lesser-known individuals into effective programs is difficult enough, confronted as they are with the general stigma that follows those people with mental disorder.

Stigma is counterproductive

About half of Americans with major depression do not receive treatment for the condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and still more Americans with other mental health diagnoses fail to receive treatment. Why? Because stigma is powerful.

Many people do not seek treatment for fear they will be branded as mentally weak. There is good reason to fear stigma. A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior this past summer found that 68 percent of Americans do not want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family and 58 percent do not want people with mental illness in their workplaces.

Mental illness is not a parlor game

When famous individuals like Tiger Woods seek out treatment, he ought to be supported. Addiction and mental health care are not parlor games. One would not rub a celebrity’s nose in his cancer treatment. The same standard of decency ought to apply to addiction and to all mental health problems.

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