“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”- the Constitution of the World Health Organization. Mental illness is a largely neglected illness across the globe. It is an invisible illness; it’s symptoms are not easily detected, and it is not transmitted like other diseases by coughing or touching. But its impacts are serious, and can cost families, friendships, jobs and sometimes even lives. Depression, OCD, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety are all mental illnesses affecting millions of people around the world, just to name a few. We’ve all heard about these conditions, but what do we really know about them? And more importantly, what are we doing about it?
Around the world, mental illnesses are associated with shame and heavy stigma and the importance of mental health is undermined or even ignored. People with mental illnesses are often pushed to the margins of society and treated unfairly. Too many of us associate mental illnesses with a character flaw when in fact they are diseases just as real as cancer, diabetes or HIV. For too long we have avoided the conversation about mental health, and the stigma that is perpetuated by that silence can be deadly to those who suffer from mental illnesses.
Stigma can be defined as “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation”. Stigma happens when ignorance and fear causes people to have a prejudiced attitude towards someone or something. When stigma is associated with an aspect of someone’s life that they cannot help, such as a mental health condition, it causes unfair shame and isolation. It prevents those suffering from talking about their illness, reaching out to their loved ones for support, and getting the help they need to live a healthy life. We must realize that communities’ reaction to mental illnesses, the prejudice and discrimination against those who struggle daily with debilitating conditions, is just as much a part of the illness as the symptoms of the disease itself.
Today, there is no reason why a person suffering from a mental illness should feel ashamed, helpless or abandoned. We all have a duty towards those of us who suffer from mental illnesses because it affects all of us. A big part of taking responsibility is to break the silence that perpetuates the stigma. Acknowledging mental illnesses as real illnesses, educating ourselves so that we can confront our fears, and promoting awareness about mental health. People are starting to speak out and it is time for all of us to join the conversation and end the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
Click on the video below to see what others are saying about mental health and the effects of stigma:
End The Stigma Of Mental Illness
If you have any questions or comments, com