“Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it” (Michelle Obama)
Mental illness is of such significant concern that the World Health Organization (WHO) has implemented a global Special Initiative for mental health. While mental health conditions are on the rise, research indicates that most people who have mental health problems still do not seek help. The reasons for this are numerous but one of the main factors is stigma. Even in the most educated of circles, cruel jokes, irreverent conversations and stories, and discriminatory remarks minimise the seriousness of mental illnesses and discourage those who suffer mental challenges from seeking the medical help that they need.
Each culture has a different way of looking at mental health. For most, there is a prevalent stigma surrounding mental health. Essentially, mental health issues are considered a weakness. A stigma could be a harsh unjust societal attitude towards an individual or group that shames them for a perceived imperfection or difference in their existence. People who endure a mental state or seek help for emotional pain, like anxiety, depression, emotional disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, often face public criticism. As a result of the above, people with mental illnesses are denied the opportunities that characterise a happy life such as good occupations, safe housing, adequate health care, and connection with a diverse range of people.
There are three areas of life and society that potentially could aid those who are suffering, even for seemingly the most minor of ailments, like anxiety:
- The family – family support is important in getting any condition diagnosed accurately and assisting the family member along the road to recovery. Children’s Health Orange County (CHOC) notes: “Parents play an important role in examining their family’s own cultural beliefs about treatment and identifying ways to advocate for their children to get expert help whenever they need it.”
- The community – CHOC again notes: “Children and teens with mental health conditions may not know anyone else with a similar diagnosis, which can impact their self-esteem. For teens especially, finding support from an online community may be a helpful way to openly speak about their mental health condition. Parents may also benefit from knowing other parents with children who have mental health conditions, as this can allow families to find a sense of community or support.”
- Business – company leadership has an important role to play in paving the way for reducing bias, stigmas and discrimination. Anti-stigma and mental health awareness campaigns have been instrumental in reducing the shame attached to mental illness. Companies can also provide relevant information, instil wellness programmes which include mental health as part of their agendas, and provide counselling services where staff members can discuss their respective conditions without fear of discrimination.
Mental health is not taboo. As Mental Health Space affirms: “All throughout the world, mental diseases are on the rise. Although they cannot usually be entirely healed, there are various therapies that have proven to be highly beneficial. It should be a top priority to make these available to the public so as to ensure overall development of the society.”
Everyone can help get rid of the stigmas associated with mental challenges and diseases.