It is estimated that one in four people will at some point in their lives experience a mental health issue. Over the last 18 months, I have battled with my own mental health difficulties and unfortunately had to watch a friend succumb to hers too. The stigma associated with these mental health problems can be almost as difficult to manage as the illness itself.
1. How does stigma affect those with mental health issues?
• Stigma can act as barrier to those trying to seek support as they fear being labelled as "mentally ill".
• Not getting the much needed support can cause feelings of isolation and make the experience of mental health difficulties worse.
• Depression, anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder are seen as lifelong labels which can mark the person experiencing these as "different" from society.
2. What is Stigma?
• Stigma thrives on lack of knowledge and understanding, negative attitudes and ignorant or discriminatory behavior.
• Stigma can take on many different forms such as hurtful words, social exclusion and higher insurance costs.
• Stigma in relation to mental health involves the use of negative words or labels to identify people with mental health issues as different.
3. What is the impact of Stigma?
• Feelings of shame, hopelessness and isolation overcome the individual.
• Fewer opportunities for socialization and employment due to stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination.
• Reluctance to ask for help to receive treatment.
4. What can be done?
• Educate yourself on mental health difficulties and their associated recovery processes
• Recognize the growing number of people who experience mental health difficulties. 25% of people experience some sort of mental health difficulty at some point in their lives, so the chances are you do know someone suffering even if you aren't suffering yourself.
• Challenge stigma and discrimination when you see it or hear it
• Start a conversation with a friend, family member, loved one or co-worker on mental health