Mental illness unfortunately is accompanied by enormous stigma. This is in part largely due to inadequate understanding around mental health issues and their consequences. It is also due to media reportage on the subject. But also let’s consider the priority that mental health is given in this country.
Working within the mental health sector, I am always frustrated by the difficulties experienced by people experiencing mental health challenges around finding support for themselves, especially from friends and families. Sometimes loved ones are unwilling to address the often uncomfortable idea that they may have a role to play in both the illness and management of the illness. Instead the individual must muddle through, independent of helpful and consistent support at home. It becomes their problem and theirs alone. Other times, loved ones deliberately distance themselves from the individual as a result of fear or misunderstanding around the illness, or as a result of an episode. Episodes often can create the ‘line in the sand’ event trigger that validates the fears of the loved ones and the necessity that they remove support and sometimes even sever connection to that individual. Obviously these reactions can cause the individual to feel abandoned, misunderstood, judged and terribly hurt. And sadly these are all too common responses, heartbreaking responses, especially when you consider that we would never treat an individual with a medical illness in this way.
Why is this so?
Mental illness is deemed as being unknown, mysterious, unpredictable and frightening. Sadly, it is also often seen as a weakness, or something to be overcome if only the individual would try hard enough, despite the volumes written on mental illness that address and contradict these myths. Medications can help enormously but self-medicating can be very common, thus they are sometimes used sporadically or not at all, causing fresh, often frightening episodes.
Educating the public around mental illness is an obvious place to start in breaking down stigma. But just as important is the concept of increasing tolerance, empathy and kindness. Have a read of the attached link as it will give you some ideas on how to manage stigma.
Have an awesome day. Bye for now, Paula