A few years ago no one really paid much attention to mental health. Most mentally ill patients suffered in silence while some never actually realized that they were mentally sick.
However, things appear to have improved in recent years where a lot of education and awareness has been done with regards to mental health.
Most of those efforts have been geared towards fighting mental health stigma. There are a lot of myths surrounding mental health that often makes it difficult for mentally ill people to come out and even seek treatment.
It is hard to know the number of people suffering from mental health across the world as many even severe cases suffer in silence.
What is mental health?
Most people do not really understand what mental health is. Mental health can be defined as a person’s condition concerning their emotional and psychological well-being.
On the other hand, stigma is when a person views another is a negative way because of their perceived abnormal condition. Stigma towards mentally ill people has generally derailed the fight against the condition.
Stigma can result in discrimination for people who are suffering from mental illness. Discrimination can be manifested in different forms such as a person making a negative remark about the treatment of a mentally ill person. Sometimes it might be unintentional or intentional for example avoiding another one because they feel they are unstable.
Below are some of the negative effects of mental health stigma:
• Reluctance to seek treatment
• Physical harassment or bullying
• Lack of understanding by friends and family members
• Lack of insurance companies that fully cover for mental health treatment
• False beliefs concerning mentally ill people, for example, believing that their situation won’t improve.
How to end mental health stigma
As mentioned earlier, mental health stigma poses a very big challenge in dealing with mental health cases. Stigma has a negative effect of keeping away people from seeking professional help or treatment with regards to their mental conditions. Below are some of the ways that can help in the fight against mental health stigma:
Openly talking about mental health
One of the best ways we can use to fight mental health stigma is by openly talking about it. Discussing your mental condition with friends and family members has the natural effect of demystifying mistruths about mental health.
Awareness about mental health
Another great way of fighting mental health is by creating public awareness about what mental health is. Mental health stigma is often fueled by a lack of adequate information about mental health. There’s a need to educate the general populace about mental health and inform them that anyone can suffer from it.
Showing compassion for people with mental health problems
In most cases, most mentally-ill people feel isolated and abandoned by society. They feel as if they are not wanted because of their condition. That’s why it is important to be compassionate and loving towards such people. Try to show them that they matter just like anyone else.
Be conscious of the language you use
Sometimes we stigmatize mentally ill people without realizing that we are doing so. For example, you might find yourself terms that are stigmatizing in one way or another. The best way is to refrain from adjectives that sound uncomfortable to people suffering from mental health.
How to cope with stigma
Stigma will always prevent you from opening up and seeking for proper treatment. The best way to beat that is by rising beyond that fear and seeking treatment for your mental condition.
Proper treatment will help in identifying where the real problem is and hence being able to treat the symptoms before they get worse.
Don’t harbor feelings of shame and doubt
Stigma doesn’t only come from other people. There’s always a tendency of people feeling that their mental illness is as a result of personal weakness or some curse. Try to seek counseling and talks to other people in order to boost your self-esteem and avoid self-destructive thoughts.
Don’t isolate yourself
In case you are suffering from mental illness, avoid spending most of your time alone. This will only work against your recovery from the condition. It is good to try and talk to your family members, friends or the clergy about what you are going through. Doing that will make it easy to cope with the mental health condition.
Join a support group
Coming together with other people and sharing experiences about your condition can help a lot in coping with mental health stigma. There are various groups both at the national and local level for people dealing with mental conditions.
Group members regularly come together to share their experiences and support one another. Joining such groups will not only help you deal with the mental stigma but also appreciate the fact that mental health affects other people.
In general, mental health stigma affects a lot of people worldwide. Many people are still afraid to openly come out and seek help because of fear of being stigmatized. The best way to overcome mental health stigma is to openly talk about mental illness, create public awareness and seek professional help.
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