Mental health involves effective functioning in daily activities, which would result in healthy relationships, being productive at work and the ability to regulate your own emotions.
Mental health is the foundation of feelings, communication, learning and self-esteem. Mental health is also fundamental to healthy relationships and emotional wellbeing. Mental illness refers to all diagnosed mental health disorders, from personal anxiety to behaving with distress in society. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 19% of adults experience mental illness, about one in 5 adults. 4.1 % have serious mental health issues.
This article will look at how mental illness is perceived as a stigma in today’s generation and the four most effective ways to address stigma.
More than half of people who are diagnosed with mental illness do not receive proper treatments. People avoid seeking therapies for fear of rejection in society or being treated differently and losing their livelihood. Stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people’s mental health can lead to serious health effects to the concerned people.
There are many types of stigmas attached to mental health. The three prominent stigmas are as follows:
1. Public stigma:
It involves how society looks down and act with negative attitudes to people with mental health illnesses. Often, while being in public places, you might hear people cracking harmful and unconstructive jokes about mental illness without thinking that mental illness is prevalent in people, and one in 15 people are diagnosed with mental illness. Such comments and jokes that seem funny might be very upsetting and offensive to someone’s mental health.
2. Institutional stigma:
Stigma on mental illness in the workplace remains a challenging task for the employees. More than half of working employees say that they prefer not to disclose their mental health conditions in fear of being judged, treated differently, or even fired. This comprises discrimination in the workplace concerning mental health issues, such as no insurance or funding to people with a mental illness or paid leave under such circumstances.
This is where the individuals with mental illness have a negative attitude and view of themselves on their condition. Studies have shown that self-stigma does not let people get over their mental illness even if they seek treatments. The self-stigma and discriminations keep on haunting the individuals and worsen their condition of mental illness, such as lower self-esteem and reduced hope in getting better. In a study conducted in 2017, researchers found that more than 200 people with two years of mental illness had greater self-stigma levels and were less likely to recover from mental illness.
Some ethnic communities say there is no such thing as mental illness, and they do not believe in it. It becomes a significant barrier for the people who have a mental illness to voice out even in front of their loved ones or family members. In some Asian countries, seeking mental illness services can be against their traditional values and beliefs. They also think that expressing your mental health in society is a shame upon the family members. In the African American communities, individuals think there is no confidentiality concerning mental illness, and thus they have no trust in talking about their mental illness to others or even seeking treatments.
Mass media representations such as in movies characterizing actors with mental illness can influence the view of stigma negatively and violently on the audience. An example would be Joker (2019), which presents the main character as a person with mental illness who later becomes brutal and furious. Studies found that watching the film was a negative experience for people with mental illness. Such stigma can have a devastating effect on an individual’s mental health.
Studies show that students from age 14-20 are the most concerned about mental health. 90% of students have symptoms of mental illness, but they are afraid to voice out due to the stigma. They fear facing discrimination with their friends or even end up losing all their friends. Students tend to seek treatments through social media instead of pursuing proper treatments. This may have a severe impact on the youngsters as they might be influenced by what they see online and take it to be true.
Most effective ways to combat the stigma
1. Expressing oneself:
As we are in the 21st century, it is high time to stop the stigma about mental illness. The best attitude to break the stigma is approaching someone with mental illness and getting to know them and their mental health without giving your own personal or society’s opinions; instead, try to help the person by letting him talk and express himself openly.
The National Alliance Mental Illness (NAMI) reported a lack of awareness about mental health and its consequences. There should be campaigns about mental illness and the adverse outcomes for people to be well-versed about mental health and know that their actions affect people.
Encourage equality about mental health, as any other disease such as diabetes or heart disease receive privileges and respect, the same should be applied for mental illness. People should support individuals with mental illness to voice out and asked to be treated equally.
4. Wellbeing sessions:
Schools, workplaces and social centres should have a weekly open session about mental health and illness, where individuals are free to express themselves and learn from others. This act would be instrumental in schools, workplaces and even social centres for older people where each individual can grow in their mental wellbeing.
In summary of the above discussion, this article has emphasised how mental health and illness can be a stigma in today’s generation and some practical ways to break the stigma about mental illness and live a better life with healthier mental health. Being in the 21st century with the latest technology and still having prejudices about mental illness is an embarrassment to the world. We are responsible for our actions; thus, we can help support mental illness and break this stigma for a brighter future.
Narmeen Nasari, Student of Middlesex University (Mauritius) and YUVA Intern