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Time to Change: Impact of Stigma on People with Mental Illness

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In this day, it is disappointing that stigma surrounding mental illness remains pervasive and entrenched in our society. It appears that everyone who suffers with a mental illness is treated in uniformity; there are no distinguishable features – when compared to physical ailments, which are distinguished from each other. It is hard enough for someone to come to terms with their own anguish of mental health. They have then got to talk to other and explain to them what they are feeling and not be judged but be helped, and comforted.

One quote aptly describes this: ‘I need to break out of cyclic depressive problem but humiliated to seek help. And there are many more which say similar things about being ashamed or humiliated to go and seek help regarding their mental illness.’

When looking at this even further, it appears that people are feeling ashamed because of what others will say about them and their mental illness. Many therapists are hearing about the shame of mental illness from their clients. People want to see a therapist, but they feel too ashamed to actually go to a therapist. When people do go to see a therapist they will make up excuses to their friends and family as to where they have been, rather than saying that they have been to seek help. It appears that admitting they have been to see a therapist, they are also indirectly admitting to having a mental illness, and this is where the shame appears to come from. There is another common factor of feeling ashamed about having a mental illness and the fact they have to go see a therapist. This is the feeling of guilt, as they will feel guilty for what they are putting friend and family through.

I have come across with an article whereby a young lady is talking about her guilt for having a mental illness, and the effects it is has having on her parents, and this is making her feel guilty and then leading to the feel of being ashamed about her mental illness.

This feeling of being ashamed of their mental illness is clear when they do seek out help for their illness. It is a big step for someone with a mental illness to accept it themselves and then seek the appropriate help which they need. However when they have found the suitable help, they are then reluctant to tell others;

Another prime example of the lengths which people are willing to go to is captured on this statement: I used to tell me friends I had a dentist appointment….I’d rotate on what I told my friends they were for. This shows how people are willing to tell their friends and family they have seen a medical professional then state where they have actually been. It appears they are accepting the mental illness themselves however still feel it’s a ‘label’ put on them by society and others will look at them differently because of their mental illness.

In conclusion to the articles and findings I have seen, it is socially acceptable to see any medical professional, however when it comes to seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist, it holds a certain stigma to it, because of the illnesses which they treat. Another conclusion of which I can draw is that guilt is one of the biggest factors leading to feeling ashamed about their mental illness.

NB: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a psychological or psychiatric condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read online. Read the full disclaimer here

Dale Burden’s background is in psychology and neuroscience. Having suffered with depression and anxiety, Dale wanted to better his understanding of mental health and the treatments available. He has therefore recently qualified as a Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner. In his spare time, Dale enjoy building plastic models, reading and spending time with family. He is now in the process of developing his own business, and writing a few books relating to mental health and the related issues. 



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