The recent years have seen a healthy increase in discussion around mental health, both online and offline. Having open conversations about mental health goes a long way towards helping de-stigmatize it in society, and for many, can be the first push for them to seek medical and professional help.
Here are some common myths/stigmas about mental health:
- People with mental health disorders are inherently “dangerous”
- Children or teenagers cannot experience mental health issues
- Being depressed is just a “mood”
- Therapy is a waste of money/therapy is a scam
- Addiction means lack of will-power and common sense
- People with mental health disorders are incapable of recovering
These stigmas surrounding mental health originate from age-old rhetorics where mental health issues are related to demonic or spiritual possession. They are also oftentimes amplified due to the indifference from people not suffering from mental health disorders and are not sensitive or aware about it.
Stigmas can either be perceived stigmas or social stigmas. Perceived stigma is an internalized stigma that causes a person suffering from mental health issues to experience feelings of shame, discomfort, fear, and guilt as a product of the discrmination they endure. On the other hand, social stigmas originate from societal disapproval of a person with mental health disorders.
As a teenager on ground zero, I witness day-to-day instances of mental health issues being treated disrespectfully or with indifference. This goes a long way towards exacerbating the situation and could even lead to people feeling alienated and isolated.
These stigmas can be extremely detrimental and present itself as a roadblock in the way to the healthy discussions and views surrounding mental health. They might also lead to people adapting harmful coping mechanisms which only worsen their situation.It therefore becomes pertinent to find ways to combat these stigmas.
- Educate yourself. With the rampant misinformation on social media today, find trusted sources which are written by/approved by professionals when dealing with sensitive topics
- Look inward. Address your own biases and judgements before displaying attitudes or behaviour which could potentially be harmful
- Offer support. Treat everyone with dignity and respect because you never know what a person is going through.
- Choose your words carefully. Casually flinging about sensitive terms could aid in downplaying the situation and be extremely damaging.
What is happening in real time?
In the United States, it has been almost thirteen years since the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act was first passed. Still, the accessibility and affordability of proper health care such as licensed therapists remains a problem in many parts of the country.
In India, public stigma surrounding mental health, especially towards the youth, is extremely disadvantageous since many people fail to report or diagnose their disorders because of fear of being shunned.
Even though the world has made significant strides, mental health care in countries around the world is oftentimes swept under the rug, which is especially true where I live – India. The reason that is thrown around for this is that there are “bigger issues to deal with” in these places. However, as more and more people suffer with mental health disorders everyday, it is increasingly becoming difficult to turn a blind eye to this. Proper mental health care and healthy conversation surrounding the same is required.
The mounds of information available online has made it much easier for me and the people around me to educate ourselves and contribute in de-stigmatizing mental health disorders through looking inward and checking our biases. This should no longer be a choice but a necessity for the benefit of those around us who face these issues everyday.