More now than ever mental health stigma needs to be addressed, so serious changes within society can occur.
Over the weekend in Melbourne, Australia (November 9) there was a tragic turn of events where an individual stabbed three people and set a car on fire. As a result, one person died. The person responsible also died.
Tragic events like these always get me thinking about the stigma associated with mental health issues, as well as the lack of services, funding, and initiatives the government places on public health overall.
The Australian government is supposed to be for the people but seems to be full of greed and self-preservation. If we had adequate mental health services where every single Australian could access, regardless of culture and race, could these events be prevented? Without a doubt, yes.
Some of you may be asking “what is mental health stigma and how is it caused?”.
Mental health stigma can be divided into two distinct types: Social stigma is characterised by harmful attitudes and discriminating behaviour directed at people with mental health issues by people close to them to the general public. On the other hand, self-stigma is when a person with mental health problems perceives it negatively resulting in feelings of shame and poorer treatment outcomes.
There are some reasons for how mental health stigma has come about with the most significant cause is due to people not being educated about mental health and mental illness.
This stems back to the very early days of civilisation when mental illness was seen as “demonic or spirit possession, were ‘explanations’ that would almost certainly give rise to reactions of caution, fear and discrimination”. The medical model also implies that people with mental health problems are in some way ‘different’ from ‘normally’ functioning individuals.
So what can we do as a community to work our way to stopping mental health stigma?
This has been given much thought from a lot of mental health professionals, and today from someone with mental health problems and one day being a mental health professional.
- The first thing that comes to mind would be education. Knowledge is power and having the ability to eliminate mental health stigma is how it ultimately becomes “normalised”.
- The second would be to get involved; whether you have mental health problems or not, it’s important we all help each other. Getting involved in events and functions can improve not only your mental health but also others.
- Third would be to talk about it, with so many people going through the same thing, how could talking about it and having other people relate be bad? It can only strengthen our bonds and work towards breaking the stigma around something millions of people struggle with.
I could go on and on about my personal opinions on mental health stigma and all of the ways I think people could reach out, but that will result in pages and pages of writing. So I’ll leave you with those three key and powerful suggestions.
If you would like to leave a comment about your struggles, how you’ve helped someone feel less alone and less stigmatised I would love to hear from you!
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P.S. If you need someone to talk to or immediate help see: http://www.mentalhealthcompass.com.au/helplines