Ending the stigma of Mental Illness

10:23 PM

Hello everyone,

Hope the new year is treating you well. I wanted to start my posts for this year with this one because it's on a topic, that in my opinion is not discussed enough. This issue was brought up on World Mental Health Day last year and I hope it will continue to be a part of conversations throughout this year as well. So let's talk!

What is Stigma?
Think of that stain on your shirt that you cannot rub off no matter how hard you try. That in my opinion is stigma. It is a mark of disgrace which creates a barrier between an individual and society. The victim of stigma is often left with feelings of shame and humiliation for being themselves, in this case, for having a mental illness. The unhealthy 'us' vs 'them' mindset that stigma brings about, ultimately results in discriminatory behavior. When someone is given a label let alone the label 'mentally ill' it affects the way we perceive and judge that individual. Our judgment is often clouded by that one characteristic when there's much more to an individual than being 'mentally ill'. There's not one person that we can point our fingers at and blame for the presence of stigma in the world. We, including myself, have contributed in some form or another in the continual of stigmatization and discrimination against people which is why it is important to speak up about this issue. 

Why should we act to end the stigma?
We are all human beings and we are all perfectly flawed individuals. Each of us are undergoing the process of being healthy whether physical, mental or spiritual. Therefore it wouldn't be right for us to typecast someone based on one quality such as mental illness. If you were to have the flu you would go to the doctor without feeling any shame. However if you were to go the psychologist or the psychiatrist it would be a completely different scenario. Imagine yourself walking into a hospital and sitting at the waiting room. You look around and see people staring at you as if you were not one of 'them'. I think any of us in such a circumstance would feel inferior, ashamed and out of place. It is difficult for someone to willingly subject themselves to such an experience which sadly explains why many people do not reach out and seek help for their illness. This is precisely why we need to end the stigma. It may make the difference between someone seeking professional help or being hired for a job based on qualifications or even being included in society as a fellow human being.

How do we end the stigma?

  • The process of ending the stigma and challenging the discriminatory behaviors starts with identifying and understanding what stigma is and how it affects others. By sharing this understanding with others and promoting education on the topic we are taking the first step of this journey. 

  • What I've often noticed is how many people are scared of getting to know a person with a mental disorder due to the numerous myths surrounding mental illnesses. If we allow ourselves to listen to individuals who have experienced mental illness we will understand them better and will be able to challenge the myths that distort our understanding of mental disorders.  

  • It is also important to challenge the notions or beliefs of individuals or those spread via different media with facts. 

  • It is crucial to never resort to labeling others. Speak up when someone is labeled or discriminated against. 

  • The quality that we, as a society practice least is empathy. If we were to walk a mile in their shoes, we would understand the difficulties they experience as a result of stigma and discrimination on a daily basis. Always hear the story and understand the person before passing judgment. 

There's more to a person that their illness!

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