Ok, so we’ve all experienced mental health stigma to a lesser or greater extent. This post isn’t just about the opinions of those with official diagnosis’, although that’s extremely important too, but about the stigma we face regarding our mental health every single day. Sometimes responding with “I’m fine” seems like the easiest option- but why is that? Why should we feel ashamed to admit that we are stressed, upset or panicking? These are the same emotions that every single individual will experience throughout their lives, what differs is our ability to manage them. Some people pre-occupy their minds by going out with their friends or exercising, some people talk to their close friends about their inner struggles, but some people need additional support to manage these intense feelings. In the same way that people with physical disabilities or injuries use aids and medication to support them throughout daily activities, others use medication and therapies to manage mental health issues. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Mental health stigma is not simply negative views of those with a mental illness but it is prejudice and discrimination too. In my experience, it has stopped those from seeking the help and treatment that they need and even lead to people hiding their struggles in fear of isolation and judgement. It has led to poor social support for those who may need it most, made those who disclose mental illness less likely to be employed and caused other health related problems to escalate as they are statistically less likely to be listened to. What if this was happening to a member of your family or a close friend? Figures show that it probably is with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem throughout their lives.
Studies show that common negative assumptions of those experiencing mental health struggles are that they are ‘dangerous’, ‘self-inflicted’ and ‘hard to talk to’. Now, let’s bust these myths. 1) Some (not all) of those experiencing a mental health problem are vulnerable and are more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator. 2) Believe me, the majority of people you take the time to LISTEN TO will explain that they do all they can to make ‘it’ go away. No matter what ‘it’ is. Sometimes it’s difficult to build the motivation to conduct self-help methods, but that doesn’t mean it’s not their biggest wish. 3) I bet you’ve had hundreds of interesting and engaging conversations with people who have a mental health diagnosis- you just didn’t notice. Newsflash: we are normal people. I’d like to think that I can hold a good conversation.
I agree, stigma has reduced greatly throughout the last few years due to educational media coverage, but there is still a lot to be done. My conclusion is that those who stigmatise others due to their mental state do so due to lack of knowledge and understanding. Let’s spread the word, reduce the stigma and promote equality.
What are your thoughts on mental health stigma?
Love, Kayleigh Rose x