Mental Illness and Stigma

stig-ma

     ~ a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person

 

People who live with mental illness face stigma every day; treated differently, as if they’re less than others.  The stigma is very real and it hurts.

Stigma occurs whenever there are negative judgements or stereotypes about those with any form of mental illness.

When someone is called “dangerous” or “crazy”, that’s when stigma shows.

Stigma is still very rampant today because people don’t fully understand mental illness which results in many negative attitudes towards it.

Media plays a huge part of enhancing the stigma.  How do they do this? Media portrays people living with mental illness by inaccurate stereotypes.  Take a look at all the shootings in the US; media assumes the shooter has a mental illness.

Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University who specializes in gun violence and mental illness, conducted a study funded in part by the National Institutes of Health that found that 4 percent of gun and other violence is traceable to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression – the three mental health conditions most frequently found in violent incidents.

Swanson says the role of mental illness is overplayed after a shooting that grips at the country. (foxnews.com article)

The media should also report more positive and hopeful stories.

Within the last few years, movies have portrayed mental illness pretty accurate.  This helps eliminate the stigma, but there’s still a lot of work to do.  The following movies are ones I’ve seen and find them to be very well done:

A Beautiful Mind, Silver Linings Playbook, Inside Out, Benny and Joon, Sybil, Love & Mercy, Girl Interrupted, Good Will Hunting, Frozen, The Voices and Split.  There are so many more with a more accurate view on mental illness. 

One TV show, which I had to stop watching, that has a negative view on mental illness is Criminal Minds.  I used to watch it and loved it until they started focusing on each criminal having a mental illness of some kind.

In actuality, people struggling with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators, and the link between mental health and violence is small.

A person who is stigmatized may be treated differently and excluded from many things the rest of society takes for granted.

People with mental illness may also take on board the prejudiced views held by others, which can affect their self-esteem. This can lead them to not seek treatment, to withdraw from society, to alcohol and drug abuse or even to suicide.

What can we do to help eliminate this stigma and stereotypes?

1/ Do not let stigma take over your self-confidence.  Educating yourself about the condition, connecting with others experiencing similar situations and seeking counseling can help people gain self-esteem and get rid of destructive self-judgment.

2/ Living in isolation can be dangerous.   People with a mental illness should not detach themselves from society and family. Spending time with loved ones and/or members of community and reaching out to people they trust for compassion and support can prove effective in overcoming negative emotions.

2/ Find a support group.  Some local groups offer programs that help diminish stigma. These programs educate people about their condition and provide practical advice to deal with it. Some groups also run behavioral therapies to alter negative thinking.

3/ As hard as it may be, start talking about your story.  This will also encourage similar people to discuss their problems openly.  One can speak at events; write journals, blog, or upload photos and posts on their social media accounts to express opinion and gather support.

4/ Get the help you need.  Mental illness prevents many people from admitting that they have a problem and asking for help. They are reluctant to seek treatment due to the fear of ridicule and being seen as weak. But they have to overcome their fear and avoid delaying the matter. Mental illnesses are treatable with timely intervention to help avoid drastic consequences.

 

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