Mental Health is a dear topic to me. I was bullied for more than ten years of my life, and I told myself, I want to understand why people do what they do. It became more important to me back in 2009 when I felt physically and emotionally threatened by someone unexpected.
That experience shook me and traumatized me for a long time. Until I became angry and told myself that if I ever got hurt again, I will hurt them too and make sure they regret it. That is bad, and I realized I have a problem and I need help. I was still in college and decided to ask help from one of my professors and she passed it on to the guidance counselor. At that time, I was already deep in my studies of personalities and mental illnesses. I started reading about human behavior, mental health, mental illnesses at the ripe age of fourteen years old, but I didn’t understand them fully. Attending the sessions made me realize and appreciate how important and how helpful to have someone to talk to who does not judge you and instead empowers you and informs you of your options.
I’ve always known that the stigma on mental illness existed ever since I was young. I’ve read it on the papers, I’ve watched it on TV series and movies.
My guidance counselor who is a dear friend to me up to now, called one of my guardians and suggested psychological testing. When we got home, my guardian told me, you are not sick right cause we can’t afford it. I may not have the physical signs, but it doesn’t mean it should be overlooked.
My guardian was in denial and maybe so was I because I answered back, no, I wasn’t sick. I honestly don’t know what state of mind I was back then. But I started sessions with the guidance counselor until I graduated and a few sessions more until I found a job.
So why is there a Mental Illness Stigma?
Why is it that people stigmatizes mental illness and not physical illness. After all , they are both normal conditions that someone experiences from time to time and can recover from them. In Addition to that, Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Before we answer that question and before we try to produce a solution for that problem, let us first go back on where the Mental Illness Stigma started.
The Mental Illness Stigma started years ago. We are not even born yet. It is the time where people are misinformed about Mental Health and Mental Illness. At that time, once they found out that you have a mental illness, they sent you away to an isolated place or island to rot or worst. The mental patients were always treated differently and poorly. People were still in the dark back then.
Several years later, scientists were able to study mental illness and wrote the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision, Edition Four (DSM-IV-TR). Even though, our government, economy, technology, and science had grown, why is it that mental illness stigma still exists?
In my opinion there are so many reasons I could choose from:
First, it is a learned behavior. Research suggests that the majority of people hold negative attitudes and stereotypes towards people with mental illness. From a young age children will refer to others as “crazy” or “weird”; these terms are used commonly throughout adulthood as well. Often the negative stereotypes involve perceptions that people with mental illness are dangerous. (Psych Today)
No matter how great our improvements are compared to our ancestors, we learned to stigmatize and believe that people with mental illnesses are dangerous people, they are crazy, weird, and you can never recover from the illness. And when they have you committed, people also started to believe that mental illness makes you weak, not good enough, and they will take away your rights. This situation rarely happens, not all your rights are taken and it only does when you are a danger to yourself and the others.
Second, it is influenced by how the media portrays people with mental illness. Take a look at the picture below.
Basing it from the photo, I know that there are so many mass shootings that are caused by mentally ill people. But not all mentally ill people kill people.
According to Psych Today on Mental Illness Stigma, This perception is fueled by media stories that paint violent perpetrators as “mentally ill” without providing the context of the broad spectrum of mental illness. This bias is not limited to people who are either uninformed or disconnected from people with mental illness; in fact health care providers and even some mental health professionals hold these very same stereotypes.
The coverage on mental patients and some mental health professionals treating mental patients were immature several years ago, but fortunately they have matured and grown all these years when it comes to reporting news and treating mental illness. It’s a pretty delicate topic that should be handled with utmost care. No media has the right to add fuel to the fire of stigma. In fact, since people count media for news and information, the media should be the top accurate and reliable source of information. It shouldn’t be biased. The media and medically allied personnels have a responsibility to inform the unenlightened ones.
Third, we are in our modern times where people care more about what others think. What others think affects their,the people’s reputations. In our time, we put value more on how other people perceives us and we care more about losing those followers, those strangers. Which is also a learned behavior that we get from high school, and from what we watch. In those five hundred followers, we can bet that only 50 of them are your real life friends, and only three or five of them are close to you, the rest are superficial. We are more scared of others judging us and shaming us for having mental illness. Mental illness is like how people are acting when Leprosy doesn’t have a cure yet and just like in the Bible.
Due to our contribution to the mental illness stigma, we also fail to realize the negative effects of that stigma to people suffering from mental illness.
- When we have a problem, we fail to recognize it and admit it. Majority of the people suffering from mental illness don’t believe mental illness is real. They think it’s just in their heads and that it will just go away on it’s own.
- When we shame and judge people from being mentally ill, we scare them from coming forward in admitting they have a problem and that they need help. That’s the most crucial part they have to start the process before they recover.
- They withdraw from family and friends because they believe they can do it on their own and they don’t want to be judged and shamed by their loved ones. Having mental illness is like having a war with yourself and other departments on your head. That’s where you need consistent and unwavering support and understanding from the people in your life.
- Mass shootings and other incidents. If they have gotten treatments right away and free of shame and judgment from other people. Instead of just blaming them after they’ve done something, we could have prevented them if we knew right away that our friend or relative is mentally ill and is capable of hurting himself and other people, but we couldn’t. They show signs of mental illness, we ignore it and don’t do something. We just tell them get over it, then we just expect it will go away. Is that the only thing we’re good at blaming, sending thoughts and prayers, have pictures with the survivors, and then doing nothing?
So with that in mind, let’s establish that we are no longer primitive, we are evolved humans, with an evolved and improved government policies and administration, economy, and technology. It is definitely the time for us to start acting smart by facing the problem about mental illness stigma instead of cowering for fear of being judged, shamed, and abandoned.
Our minds and our hearts needs to catch up with all of our medical breakthroughs in life, we shouldn’t dumb ourselves down and just shut up in the corner to avoid judgments and losing followers. We need to stand up and be the guide of those people who are lost and with weak morals on mental illness, we need to move forward by studying what mental illness really is and give awareness to stop all those misconceptions.
So how do we remove the mental illness stigma?
We remove it through mental illness education. So below are some of the basic information you need to know.
Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Mental Illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.
Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.
A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at school or work or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy).
Mental Wellness According to World Health Organization, mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
So what else can you do to remove the stigma on mental illness?
I invite you to help me by educating the misinformed on our networking sites on Twitter and Instagram every Saturday by sharing relate-able quotes, information, and news about mental illness using the hashtag #removingmentalillnessStigma. I invite especially those influential people whose got a voice, who’s got more reach and who’s influence can make a difference for the good of the many. Let’s help each other out, let’s help the people suffering from mental illness, let’s lift up and improve th mental health perception of the people starting on March 24, 2018 at Pacific Time 08:00 AM until the day ends. It doesn’t have to be the whole day, you can participate on your free time.