Sunday, 26 February 2017

The stigma that surrounds mental health

Whenever someone begins to talk about mental health people squirm with embarrassment, and a feeling of general discomfort, but why is that? Everyone has mental health, good or bad, yet as a society we do not like to recognise it. However, if someone has a sprained ankle, a cold, or any other physical symptom, it is deemed socially acceptable to talk about and to feel sympathy towards that person. But why is it that it is okay to discuss physical health but not mental health?

1. There is a silence around the topic of mental health

People do not like to discuss mental health, that's a fact, therefore people do not talk about it .So of course there is a silence around the subject, however, people who suffer with mental health problems also remain silent, usually suffering for years before they seek help. First of all, the silence is kept going by those who suffer because of the fear of how other people will react to them. Some people would rather pretend mental illness doesn't exist because if you "can't see it then it's not there" and others accept it exists but don't want to discuss it.  Secondly the silence is kept by those who suffer as it is difficult to try to explain what is going on in ones heads. As a society, we are not given the right tools and language to be able to express emotions or to explain how it is that we are feeling which is why feelings get built up and turn into bigger problems.

2. A lack of education

At school children are taught how to look after their physical health: eat five fuit and vegetables a day and do some exercise every day ect. But no one explains to children how to look after their mental health and with the present days stresses, social media and pressure, young people really need to be taught how to preserve their mental states.
This lack of education leads many people to go years feeling the symptoms of various mental illnesses thinking that how they are feeling is normal because they are unaware of the symptoms of these illnesses.
There is also a lack of education given to people on how to deal with a friend or family member who suffers from a mental illness. Many family members and friends may find this difficult to deal with due to being uneducated on their loved ones condition which may lead them to keep their distance or may create tension due to the frustration of not being able to fix the problem. Neither of these are  helpful to the person who is suffering.

3. People are unaware of what support is available

Whilst there is a wide range of support out there to help support individuals with mental health issues, these are not made aware to the general public and so many people suffer in silence without accessing help. Many people fear that by having a mental illness it means that they will instantly be taken to a mental health unit, however, for many living with mental illness this is not the case.There are many different types of counselling available that people are unaware about and there are communities of people who understand what it is like to battle mental illness who can also be a form of support and mutual understanding.

4. The media's portrayal of mental illness

The media is very strongly at fault for the portrayal of mental illness. Horror films take mental illness as its subject portraying individuals as dangerous to society when in fact the mentally ill are more likely to be a victim of violence then the perpetrator.  Memes circle the internet joking about mental breakdowns and suicide, halloween costumes are stray jackets, the shops sell items that misuse and make light of mental disorders and social media romanticises eating disorders and self harm. This leads to a very false idea of mental illness to be created and believed by the general public.

With all this taken into consideration it is not surprising that those who suffer from mental illness don't open up. However, things can change. Which is why I am so passionate about talking about mental health. Physical and mental health are a package that comes together and if one goes wrong the other usually follows soon after.  I hope there will be a day where I won't be ashamed to admit that I am feeling rubbish, that the self harm urges are horribly powerful or that something that may seem minor to you is making me extremely anxious. I hope there is a day where when mental health is mentioned people won't be searching for a way to leave the conversation, a day where mental health can be discussed in public places instead of in hushed voices behind closed doors.

Through talking the barriers of silence that surrounds mental illness are slowly being torn down and perhaps there will be a day where physical and mental health are seen equally.

Post a Comment