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Removing the Stigma Associated with Mental Illness

Mental health is an important aspect of one's life; one cannot function well without it. Mental health can help you be more productive and effective at work, in school, and in caring for yourself and others. It helps you adjust to life changes and deal with hardship, both of which are important for the quality of your relationships. According to the World Health Organization "There is no health without mental health.” During a lifetime, not all people will experience a mental illness, but everyone will struggle or have a challenge with their mental well-being." Mental illnesses create distress and difficulties in social, occupational, and familial activities due to changes in emotions, thoughts, or behaviors.

If it's so important, why aren't people talking about it?

Let's talk about the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and how people often suffer in silence because they are afraid of being judged as weak or insecure, or as someone who can't manage their mental health. Why should they have to suffer alone? It's not fair to them or the others who care about them. What can we do to help them feel more at ease? How can we overcome the stigma? For starters, stop shaming and blaming those who are dealing with mental illnesses.

You should never shame or blame someone who suffers from a mental illness; for one thing, you have no right to judge, and for another, you have no control over developing one. Mental illness, like death, it doesn’t discriminate. Mental illness has no regard for age, gender, location, wealth, social status, race/ethnicity, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, background, or any other aspect of cultural identity; it can affect anyone.

Is it a lack of knowledge?

People automatically associate mental illness with someone who is crazy, sick, or on medication. People aren't always willing to educate themselves and perform study to fully understand mental health illnesses and how they affect people, nor are they always willing to learn how to interact with someone who is suffering from one.

Could it be related to culture?

I've worked with a wide range of clients in the child welfare and social care fields, all with varied origins and beliefs. I once had a conversation with a parent who stated, "I am too healthy to have a sick child." It's unfortunate that individuals have such a narrow outlook, but I see how their lack of understanding affects their perception of the situation.

Some parents have children who suffer from mental illnesses or developmental delays, and these children are shunned, and their needs are unmet. Even when they are aware that something is wrong, some parents choose to turn the other cheek rather than seek the treatment, evaluation, and resources that their kid may require to manage their illness. The child will grow up to struggle with their illness, which will worsen as they get older.

Is it the media?

People with mental illnesses are often portrayed in the media as violent, impulsive, unstable, or criminal. Is the media portraying these individuals who only want to be heard, understood, and supported as people to avoid?

We've all dealt with or are dealing with mental health issues; remember, you don't need a diagnosis to relate. So, how do we break the stigma?

Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • We should talk about it more, be more open about it, and if you're willing to share your own story and how you overcome it, keep in mind that you might be able to help someone going through a similar experience.

  • We should invest in more mental health services and providers because there are a shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists, and mentors, as well as long waiting lists and expensive costs.

  • Educating yourself and others will help you start more dialogues that promote empowerment over shame.

Remember the phrase "it takes a village"? It takes a village to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

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