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In most cultures, mental health barely has any significance to one’s day-to-day life. In Indian families, if one has the privilege to be in middle socio-economic classes then there is a mention at least, which is lacking in the lower strata. Raise your hand if your parents don’t “believe” in therapy, and that one needs to get over whatever issues they have naturally, or by sheer will alone. There is an unrealistic expectation to neglect mental health, almost as if it is a form of weakness. If you break your foot, you go to a doctor, don’t you? So why should mental illness and health not be treated seriously? How did we come to this state of stigma, and what can we do about it?
What is the stigma around mental health?
Our mental health is something that encompasses our social, emotional, and psychological well-being. It is present in the way we think, express, feel and cope in life. Stigma, in most cases, is a negative stereotype that occurs when you view something in a negative light because of preconceived notions about it. These notions are against mental health and people who acknowledge it. These notions are more often than not based on a lack of knowledge and misdirected knowledge at best, which is usually a leading cause of discrimination. There are passing comments that are made towards individuals who express their struggles with mental health, which is never the case with physical ailments. There could be a negative attitude towards you because they think you are unstable because you went to a shrink for treating your depression. A history of mental health stigma could itself produce mental health issues within people.
Mental health and taking care of it are essential because we need to be able to cope with the stresses that life throws at us. It can affect (and in most cases does affect)
What causes mental health stigma?
In most cases, it is the same as the cause for any kind of preconceived prejudice- ignorance, and fear. We fear what we don’t know, or understand, thereby becoming judgemental towards it. There is a sense of uncertainty associated with it as well, which never does anyone any good. Mental health and illness have a certain sense of unpredictability attached to it, which is also a large cause of the stigma.
These are the stigmas that we at Cadabam’s work to clear- as well as provide help for these cases.
How to fight mental health stigma?
- Treating your mental disorder- Despite the stigma, it is important to get the help you need. There is no weakness in admitting that you need help- in fact, it takes courage to acknowledge that there may be something you need help for. The fear of being labeled shouldn't prevent you from getting help, because you will not get better without help, this is one of those situations. Put yourself first.
- Explain to people around- Educating people around, as well as reading up yourself is essential for a better understanding of mental health. Don’t let
- Tell off people- If these people around you aren’t making a good impact around you, simply tell them off! If they aren’t treating you well because of this reason, you are better off without them. You can try, but if it doesn’t work out, remove yourself from these relationships- don’t cut off ALL the people in your life, just the ones who don’t impact you in a good way.
- Don’t self-isolate- Never see yourself as someone who needs to be pitied because of an illness. You are stronger than most people who don’t have to go through whatever you have to go through. Don’t hide away because of this, reach out to people who you know will understand, and get a support system in place.
- Never see yourself as the illness- You are much, much more than the illness itself. Express yourself clearly, and never self-flagellate. Say “I have depression” instead of “I am depressive”.
- Speak out stigma- Expressing yourself and encouraging others to speak out against the stigmas associated with mental health. It helps others come out with their struggles as well and encourages educating oneself.
Judgment from people most usually stems from a lack of understanding- we tend to be critical of whatever we don’t understand. Accept yourself, get the help you need, encourage others to do the same, and speak out about the injustices that go around you. Seek support and help others to educate themselves, this goes a long way in our country’s struggle against mental health.
- What are mental health stigma and discrimination?
Ans. Like most physical health disorders, mental health disorders too need treatment and professional assistance. However, most people with mental illness refuse or avoid seeking treatment due to the stigma of mental illness that is prevalent around us. Mental health stigma or discrimination is when a person is treated differently due to a history of mental illness. This could be in their academic life, professional life or even within their family & friends.
- What are mental health disorders?
Ans. Mental health disorders are issues that affect a person's psychological well-being. Mental health conditions include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, and more.