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Reducing Stigma Around Mental Health Issues

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It surprised everyone when Clara, a track athlete and honour roll student who was used to achievement and good praise from her peers, instructors, and family, began to struggle with anxiety and depression after the loss of her twin brother. Nobody should get the impression that she is incapable of handling her tasks or she is weak. Clara was also concerned about how  her friends will treat her because she recalls them making fun of people  with mental disorders. She initially struggled to accept her circumstances, but with the support of her counsellor, she was able to do so. She also helped her realise the importance of mental health in addition to physical health.

What is mental health stigma?

The term “mental health stigma” describes unfavorable perceptions and assumptions about people who have mental health problems or disorders. This stigma may be put on those with mental illnesses by themselves or by the general public. In either case, stigma can have a negative impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. People with mental illnesses may find it challenging to receive the assistance and resources they require as a result of this stigma, which can also result in discrimination. Additionally, stigma can make people feel alone and embarrassed, which worsens their situation. Treatment is significantly impacted by stigma around mental health.

According to research, those who are subjected to stigma are less likely to seek treatment for their mental illness, and those who do may not completely reveal their symptoms out of concern for others’ judgment. Serious repercussions, such as an increased chance of recurrence or hospitalization, may result from this absence of treatment. 

What causes mental illness stigma?

The fact that stigma against mental illness is frequently based on misunderstanding and misinformation presents one of the major obstacles to its elimination. Because they don’t know enough about it, people may have unfavourable opinions of mental illness. Reduced stigma is largely achieved through education and awareness. Certainly, raising awareness and promoting education are important, but we also need to take the media into account. Public perceptions and understanding of mental illness can be significantly influenced by how it is depicted in the media. For instance, many well-liked TV dramas and films continue to characterise those who suffer from mental illness as “crazy” or “dangerous,” which only serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes. 

How to reduce the stigma around Mental health issues and disorders?

  • The stigma associated with mental illness can be lessened and public understanding can be increased with accurate and diverse media coverage. In this context, social media influencers’ function can be taken into account. For instance, several social media influencers have publicly discussed their own experiences with mental illness on their platforms, which has had a significant impact on their followers. It’s crucial for folks to realize that other people have gone through comparable situations and survived. It might offer them hope and the bravery to ask for assistance.
  • The terminology we use to discuss mental illness is another component of this issue. Words like “crazy” and “insane” can support stigma and negative preconceptions. When discussing mental health, we should work to utilise terminology that is more accurate and considerate. The trend toward utilizing “person-first” language when referring to those with mental illness is one illustration of this type of development. For example, we should say “a person with schizophrenia” instead of “a schizophrenic”. It’s a simple but crucial change that has a significant impact on how people are viewed and treated. Being politically correct is not the only consideration; respect and understanding must also be shown.
  • Destigmatizing treatment and expanding access to care are two more crucial ideas connected to lowering stigma surrounding mental health. For instance, many people with mental illness have obstacles to receiving the necessary therapy, such as expense or lack of resources in their community. For those who live in remote locations or have poor incomes, access to inexpensive mental health care is a significant barrier. There is a genuine need for more universally available, community-based mental health treatments, regardless of a person’s location or financial situation. The establishment of specialized care facilities for mental health services should be considered by both the government and non-governmental groups. This would be incredibly helpful, and it would also be very valuable to spread knowledge and awareness regarding mental health.
  • It is crucial to educate medical professionals on how to understand and cater to the requirements of patients with mental health conditions.Also, it’s critical to educate them on the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness so they can offer support and early intervention. Additionally, improving outcomes for patients with mental illness can be achieved by educating healthcare professionals in evidence-based treatment modalities such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mindful-based therapy, and interpersonal treatments.

Is there still hope?

There is hope for a better future despite the major issue of the stigma around mental illness. We can lessen the burden of mental illness and assist individuals in leading happy, meaningful lives through more knowledge, sensitivity, and access to therapies that are based on solid research. We must not undervalue the significance of hope since it may be a potent catalyst for transformation and recovery. Together, we can significantly improve the lives of those who are dealing with mental illness.

Esther Opeyemi Aworeni currently studying human anatomy at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. She is passionate about Mental health wellness, how to prevent and curb drug and substance abuse and most importantly neuroscience research work.

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