Stop The Stigma Of Mental Illness
‘If you have diabetes, you take diabetes medicine. But as soon as you take medication for your mind, there’s such a stigma behind it’ Jennifer Lawrence, 2013 Oscars, awards acceptance speech.
At one point or another, mental illness will affect at least one in four people. Mental illness or substance abuse can affect anyone at any time. Mental illness does not discriminate who it afflicts, so why does society discriminate against those who have a mental illness?
Stigma is defined as a ‘mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person’ Usually, stigma is an unfair belief or attitude that is negative. In fact, the World Health Organisation and World Psychiatric Association have recognised the stigma towards mental illness and those with a stigmatised attitude will associate the illness with suffering, disability and poverty.
While we cannot identify how this stigma originated, stigmas are usually a complex web woven from many influences. It is important that we all do what we can to stop the stigma, challenge the stereotype and make sure everyone has a positive attitude and that we will not unfairly treat someone because of their illness.
“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all” Bill Clinton, former president of U.S.A.
To help to eradicate the stigma, many studies have been conducted including that of Jason Luty, Dr Arghya Sarkhel in 2008 “The repentant sinner: methods to reduce stigmatised attitudes towards mental illness”, who conducted a test to find techniques that will reduce stigmatised attitudes. In their survey of 400 people, they used an Attitudes to Mental Illness Questionnaire and found that a short, illustrated leaflet was effective at reducing stigmatised attitudes. This method was successful as the brochures present patients in a positive way, such as those who have recovered from addictive disorders.
It is clear that people need more information about mental illness, and it is understandable that people are not well versed in mental health and wellness. While the brain is a body part and seeking treatment for any other body part is not treated with stigma, the brain is complex and mental illnesses are not as easy to define. With this in mind, it is clear that informational leaflets could go a long way to helping reduce the stigma and educating more people to be understanding of mental illness and may be able to get help for themselves sooner.
“There should be no shame in discussing or seeking help for treatable illnesses.” Barack Obama, former president.
Stopping the stigma begins with everyone, it is down to each individual to challenge the stereotype, question their views and back up their opinion with facts and support those who are driving the change to get rid of stigmatised attitudes for good.
There are many ways individuals can help to stop the stigma including;
- Talk Openly
Mental health problems are medical issues and if you don’t understand, don’t judge; instead ask questions, find out more information and don’t be ashamed of having a medical illness. Remember to choose your words carefully when you talk; there are many negative words relating to mental health which could cause offence.
- Influence Your Sphere
By being an example to others, you can dramatically change people’s perceptions. By taking the time to look after your mental health and improve your mental wellness, you may inspire others to do the same.
- Lend Your Ear
By listening and taking the time to hear what people have to say you may help them, and you’ll also help yourself too. Remember to show empathy and be an ally, you could be the person someone reaches out to, and you may help them to get the help they deserve.
- Don’t Label
People are not defined by illness; they are their own person, having an illness doesn’t define that person. Be considerate and appreciate each individual for who they are.
Do you have a belief about mental illness? Before you use it to judge, educate yourself, so you know the facts, not the myths.
Together, we can all combat mental health stigma and be a much more tolerant and caring society.