“The single most important barrier to overcome in the community is the stigma and associated discrimination towards persons suffering from mental and behavioural disorders.”The World Health Organisation.
So what is stigma?
In the dictionary it states that stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or a person.
A mark of disgrace sets one person apart from others. When a person is labelled by their mental illness they are no longer seen as an individual, but part of a stereotyped group. Negative beliefs and attitudes towards this group of people creates prejudice which in turn leads to negative actions and discrimination.
Though stigma can pretty much be associated with a wide range of different things, in this case we are going to concentrate on the stigma associated with mental health.
There is a wide range of different mental health illnesses, and as such each and everyone has stigma attached. This stigma can come from anywhere, be that from family or friends, or even in the professional workplace. Some people may even be surprised to learn that stigma also has roots within the mental health services set up to help them. I know that firsthand, because i to have experienced this stigma many times from those who are supposed to help.
Stigma can cause feelings and experiences of:
- Loneliness and isolation.
- Discrimination in housing, work, or mental health services.
- Being treated differently than other people.
- Misrepresentation in the media.
- Hopelessness and shame.
- Blame and distress.
- Secrecy about your mental illness.
- Derogatory labels.
The stigma associated with mental illness can lead to a person being reluctant to seek or accept the help and support they deserve. But thankfully, this stigma is slowly being stamped out.
How can we fight this stigma?
Thankfully, through campaigns like Time To Change more and more people are standing up and speaking out about their experiences of mental health and how damaging this stigma is. There are various ways that everybody can help to end this stigma, and i will list a few below:
- Talk openly about your own experience to educate other people. This can be done on social media or in person.
- Learn the facts about mental health and illness and share it far and wide.
- Involve your friends and family and ask them to support you along the way.
- Openly challenge any stereotypes and educate them on the facts.
- Face to face contact with the general public by someone with experience of a mental health illness, can help to shift negative attitudes.
- Become a Time To Change Champion.
Some common myths about mental illness.
Myth – Mental illness is rare and only effects a few people. Fact – Mental illness actually affects 1 in 4 people in the UK at some point in their lives. Myth – People with a mental illness will never be able to get better. Fact – With the right kind of help and support, many people with a mental illness actually recover and lead a happy, productive life. Myth – People with a mental illness can just snap out of it, or just man up. Fact – Mental illness is not a weakness, a phase or a choice. It is as real and debilitating as a physical illness and requires the right treatment and support. Myth – People with a mental illness are dangerous and a risk to others. Fact – People with a mental illness are actually more likely to be a victim of crime and more likely to harm themselves and not others.
Mental health effects everybody, not just here in the UK but worldwide. Mental health should be more of a priority in everybody’s lives. Yes the statistics state that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health illness at some point in their lives. But what everyone needs to realise is, just because you are okay mentally now, does not mean that you will be feeling the same way some point down the line. Mental health illness can strike anybody, and its in everybody’s interest that the stigma is brought to an end. People suffering from a mental health illness deserve the same respect and treatment as those who suffer with a physical illness.