The stigma is YOU
“I have depression”
“Don’t worry you will just snap out of it”
“Oh yeah. why didn’t I think of”
I hear and use the word stigma every day and every time I do, I twinge a bit. It just doesn’t feel right.
1 in 4 people suffer from some sort of mental illness at some point in their life. So if you’re sitting in a room count yourself, the person sitting to the right, the person sitting to the left and the person sitting behind or in front of you; that makes 4 .One of you have some mental illness. It’s that common.
Now think how many of you suffer from mental illness or know someone who does.
If you do the math you will know that all of us should know someone suffering from some mental illness and the fact that many of us may not reflects the stigma.
When we talk about stigma pertaining mental health .We’re saying that people will judge us , have preconceived notions of us or stereotype us due to our mental illness. Like assuming that everyone with eating disorders will be pencil-thin or saying that ‘they just need to eat’. Would ever tell someone on a wheelchair that they just need to get up and walk?
Mental illness should be viewed the same way as physical illnesses. We shouldn’t view them as less important, mental health departments shouldn’t have less funding and we certainly shouldn’t view it as a weakness or vulnerability.
We take care for those with a physical illness in ways that we wouldn’t even think to do for a person with a mental illness. We help the person receive medical treatment , we take care of them ,and above all, we treat their illness with the respect, seriousness, and legitimacy that it deserves. Why then do we not give the same level of care to those with mental illness?
3 out of 4 people who suffer from mental illness report feeling stigmatized. Many times its believed that there is no such thing as mental illness or that ‘it is all in the head’ people with mental illness are viewed as lazy, weak, demotivated, violent, aggressive and incompetent.
Media fuels these beliefs. Most criminals committing crimes are shown to be suffering from mental illness and well it is true that many criminals have mental illnesses, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every individual with mental health is dangerous and unpredictable. In reality people with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime. They tend to focus on the individual rather than the illness. Psychological disorders are highly generalized like most schizophrenic people are considered violent or depression is always shown to be suicidal and the only way out is by finding love.
Mental illnesses are also linked with a lot of myths which prevent us from understanding it and is detorent to seeking treatment. Most mental illnesses are treatable and professional help can significantly improve their quality of life and thus it becomes all the more important to destigmatize it.
And although I feel thrilled to see the progress we have made so far, I am also reminded of how much more progress we need to make.
We need to begin by understanding that mental illness is not a choice. A huge misconception is that its perceived to be under the individuals control. We need to start by understanding mental illness for what it is – a medical condition that can be treated. In order to understand mental health, read more , listen more and talk more . Start by having honest conversations where you focus on facts even when those facts are unflattering. Most importantly. Be kind to people on a daily basis, Show compassion, kindness and empathy.
If wee see someone around us faint or pass out rush to help but we don’t do this when we see someone is emotionally distressed , and that’s exactly what we need to do , we need to be. involved , show our concern and make it our business.
The truth is there is no hope without action. So while science and medicine continues to pursue the causes and cure of mental health, you pledge to find the heart and muster the will to reach out and to. use your voice to end the stigma.