Three out of four people suffering from mental illnesses have experienced stigma of some sort. Being labelled because of an illness is the worst kind of discrimination. Negativity thrives in an environment which breeds prejudice. This leads to a person feeling shameful, hopeless, distressed and as a result, reluctant to seek/accept professional help.
One in four people have already, or will go on to experience a mental health problem at some point of time in their lives. Depression and anxiety affect a large number of people worldwide. Other ailments, like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc have become more prevalent in the recent past with better forms of treatment, but many feel there is still a long way to go.
Due to apparent stigma surrounding mental health, people suffering from a mental illness may find it difficult to:-
• Find steady work.
• Be in a steady relationship.
• Find decent housing.
• Be integrated into mainstream society.
Society is to be blamed for this. People have stereotyped mental illness and its effects on people. People assume that mentally ill patients are violent, dangerous and unpredictable, only capable of causing harm to themselves or those around them. Stigma can cause delays in treatment, social isolation, unemployment and poverty. It thus becomes a vicious cycle.
Mental illnesses are difficult to deal with. Adding the element of stigma to the scenario puts the patient at a distinct disadvantage, unable to do anything to better their situation.
History has played a major role. Throughout history, people with mental problems have been treated differently, institutionalised, excluded and sometimes even brutalised. Just being “different” was the key. Fear of the unknown has led to sever forms of discrimination.
There are ways in which we can battle the stigma. Here’s our top six;
- More awareness regarding mental illnesses and how they affect various people.
- Acquainting people with those who have had personal experiences with mental illness.
- Extending a helping hand and offering support when required.
- Refraining from labelling and stereotyping.
- Protesting against discrimination relating to housing, employment and participation in society.
- Educating the future generation about mental illnesses as well.
Fighting any sort of stigma takes time. it requires a paradigm shift in people’s thought patterns. And this can only be bought around by awareness and knowledge regarding some common mental illnesses. People must learn how to recognise symptoms, in themselves or their loved ones.
Discrimination of any sort, is detrimental to the growth of society. Discrimination points to a narrow mindset. A primitive medieval way of thinking.
Today, we have advanced in all spheres. In science, technology and everything else, there have been leaps and bounds in progress. Why should there be a stigma surrounding mental health in this modern day and age? Shouldn’t we, as a society, realise that people suffering from mental illness need support, not only from professionals but more importantly everyone they interact with on a daily basis.
With time, and with awareness spreading, stigmas surrounding mental help should slowly disappear. It will only come when we collectively realise the importance of helping those who need it the most.
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