The stigma of mental health is one of the greatest burdens people can carry, causing a lot of pain in their life.
People often perceive mental health as something very definite and stationary, and forget that mental health is a fluid continuum. Noam Sphancer stated it nicely: “Mental health… is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you are going”.
The stigma against mental health can be sorted into two main areas:
a) Social Stigma: characterised by prejudicial & discriminating behaviour from society towards individuals with mental illness. For example: “This person can’t be trusted, they’re crazy” or “He/She is broken”.
b) Perceived stigma or self-stigma: this is the internalising by the person dealing with a mental illness of their perception of the perceived stigma, which can quite often cause feelings of shame, and also be a source of poorer treatment outcomes. For example, “It’s all my fault and if I just try harder I can fix it” or “I can’t tell people as I’ll lose my friends, and my family won’t treat me the same”.
In short, people are either judged by society or they have internalised society’s harsh judgement. And as a consequence, they experience uncomfortable emotions and struggle to reach out, and sometimes can’t see the point in treatment. Because, if society calls you “broken”, it must be true, right? Broken things can’t be repaired, right? That is just false and a load of BS.
According to Beyond Blue, it's estimated that 45 per cent of people in Australia will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. That means, nearly everyone has close to a 50% chance of struggling with some form of mental health problems in their lifetime.
My point is simple, mental health struggles can be helped.
There is awesome treatment out there and mental health issues can be helped and overcome in a lot of cases. So please, be mindful when you say something critical about people who are facing a challenge. One day it could be you. Life is not fair and we don’t have control over life all the time. So please be kind, hopeful, encouraging, and don’t spread the stigma of mental health.
The awesome Sapphire Sheedy (check her out on Facebook) did a beautiful drawing to break down the stigma of mental health and seeking therapy. Feel free to share and help.