Knowledge Update

How Increase Awareness Can Fight Mental Health Stigma

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Every year, 19% of adults, 46% of teens, and 13% of kids suffer from mental disorders. [1] You may have mentally ill people in your family, neighborhood, teaching your kids, colleagues at work, or even sitting in the same prayer spot as you regularly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50 million Nigerians – or one in every four – suffer from a mental illness. But, less than 10% of mentally ill Nigerians receive the attention they need,[2] because of the stigma associated with mental health that prevents many from seeking help.

What is a stigma?

Modern culture is widespread with persistent stereotypes. After they have been in place for a long amount of time, they may be difficult to deconstruct and overcome the obstacles they provide. A stigma is an unfavorable and sometimes unjust societal attitude toward a person or group that is based on a perceived weakness or difference in their lives. It is used to humiliate people and groups. Singular individuals or groups may stigmatize people who live in a specific manner, adhere to certain cultural standards, or embrace certain lifestyles, or suffer from medical conditions such as mental disorders.

Mental health stigma

It is commonly assumed that those who suffer from mental illnesses or who seek treatment for their emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder, may be worthless members of society. It is the feeling that others may perceive you with negativity because of your mental health issues especially from your family, friends, coworkers, and the community at large. It may keep individuals from receiving assistance, integrating into society, and enjoying happy and comfortable lives.

Stereotypes are incorrect, derogatory, and insulting portrayals of whole groups of people. People may quickly judge others based on a few distinguishing traits that apply to everyone in that group. For example, depressed individuals are frequently characterized as lethargic, whereas anxious ones are cowardly. Many individuals dread being branded “crazy” for seeking therapy. None of these descriptions are accurate, yet they all inflict suffering and deter individuals from seeking assistance.

The stereotype of individuals with mental illness is aggressive or dangerous. However, a minority of mentally ill individuals conduct violent actions. As a result, they are people we should be shielding rather than frightening.

Why is mental health stigmatized?

A person's mental health condition may cause them to act in socially or culturally unacceptable ways. Widespread lack of knowledge, poor education, erroneous perceptions, and fear may all contribute to increased mental illness stigma.

Effects of mental health stigma

According to per Mental Health Foundation, almost 90% of those who have a mental illness faces stigma and discrimination. [3]. They further assert that those who suffer from mental illnesses are less likely to find work, form long-term relationships, live in good housing, and participate in social activities and organizations. Stigma towards people with mental illnesses may exacerbate symptoms and hinder recovery. Stigma may also discourage people from seeking assistance. Stigma isn't always apparent or big. It may be found in the language used to describe mental illness or individuals living with it. Using harsh, insulting, or dismissive words may be distressing to hear. This may make individuals feel alone and that no one understands their situation. 

How to overcome mental health stigma

The bulk of stigma stems from misunderstanding and misguided fear. Therefore, public education is critical. When a friend, family member, or colleague has a mental illness, it's essential to research trustworthy sources of information. Individuals with mental illnesses may actively participate in their therapy. They may also consider hiring an advocate if they feel stigmatized in daily life situations like work, housing, or healthcare. 

"Can you tell me how you combat stigma?" Reduce the stigma of mental illness, embrace equality for physical and mental illness, promote compassion for individuals suffering from mental illness, foster empowerment, openly acknowledge treatment, and report on public displays of shame and self-stigma?

What You Can Do to Help

A great deal of discrimination and bias against people with mental illness still exists due to the way that they are often portrayed in the media, as well as the widespread lack of knowledge about mental health issues. Many people instead associate mental health problems with common stereotypes, such as the word "crazy" or "psycho." People suffering from mental illness experience mental health stigma, which limits the number of people who seek treatment and the resources available for offering it. Stigma and misinformation may intimidate those who are dealing with mental health issues. What you can do to lend a hand:

  • Individuals who are treated with respect and acceptance are better equipped to cope with their condition. Having people see you as a person rather than a patient may have a major impact on your mental health.
  • It is essential that these people have the same rights and opportunities as the rest of your religious group, school, and community.
  • Learning about mental health allows us to better assist others in our homes and communities.

In 2019, WHO announced the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019-2023): Universal Health Coverage for Mental Health to help 100 million additional people in 12 priority countries receive excellent mental health treatment [4]. This is our collective voice. It seems like the characteristics we need to confront mental illness and stigma. Whatever you do to help the mental health movement, remember that mental illness is no one's fault, regardless of what society thinks. Being and living Stigma-Free makes a difference.

References:

  1. The Importance of Mental Health Awareness by Jean Holthaus, LISW, LMSW (2021). Website: https://www.pinerest.org/mental-health-awareness-blog/
  2. Nigeria has a mental health problem by Socrates Mbamalu (2019). Website: https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2019/10/2/nigeria-has-a-mental-health-problem
  3. What is mental health stigma? By Lois Zoppi (2020). Website: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mental-health-stigma#effects
  4. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/special-initiative-for-mental-health-(2019-2023)