Stigma in Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses undoubtedly carry plenty of stigma and prejudice. Throughout history, our human condition has led us to label people as “crazy” if they behave differently. Fortunately, in recent years numerous studies have helped us understand why individuals with emotional and psychological problems often exhibit atypical behavior. When we understand the possible causes of many mental illnesses, we develop a unique respect for individuals who have these diseases. Moreover, this understanding may lead us to be more tolerant and inclusive.

Some of the mental and emotional illnesses that are common in many communities across the US are depression, alcoholism, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other anxiety disorders. These are part of the emotional imbalance that prevents human beings from leading a full and satisfied life. This does not mean that they are “crazy.”

Much work still needs to be done in order for the general public to perceive mental illnesses the same was as any other physical illness (e.g., heart problems, blood pressure, or diabetes). Usually when people feel physically ill, they visit a doctor regularly. Once they feel better, they continue with their daily tasks and live a normal life. However, this is not always the case with people who have mental problems. Because of a lack of information, many people believe that their mental illness, such as depression, is a weakness and can be controlled through willpower. Unfortunately, it is not until after they experience a crisis that has serious psychological effects do they realize that professional help is imminent and the issue is beyond mere will power. It is crucial that they receive support from family, friends, and the community.

Mentally ill people are commonly portrayed as aggressive, dangerous, and unpredictable. Television programs and movies are constantly showing us that a murderer is “crazy” or a “psychopath.” People make cruel jokes about those who have a mental imbalance and mock them. These comments raise the stigma and prejudice to even higher levels.

Through education, we can remove the stigma of mental illness. Medications and programs can help people feel better and live healthier. The support and understanding of community members is much more beneficial than being exposed to critics. People with a mental illness can often lead a normal life: They can work, study, and have friendships and healthy relationships. The key is to provide them with adequate and compassionate treatment.

Stigma not only is a barrier that directly affects the dignity and self-esteem of a person, it also hinders access to basic conditions for the exercise of citizenship rights and necessary services. We must look for interventions to help us move forward on the difficult road to improving social attitudes and ending all discriminatory behaviors toward people with mental disorders. By not turning our backs on these individuals, we are certainly promoting good mental health for our families and friends as well as a healthy and safe community.

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