There is a lot of stigma associated with Mental illness. Mental illness has been treated as a demon, an phenomena, queer concept etc. Mental illness is described in awkward ways and people who suffer from mental illness are given names such as crazy, pretender, not wo(man) enough, weak, attention seeker among others. Those suffering from mental illness face stigma because people do not understand what they are going through.
Mental illness is defined as a behavioural or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment or personal functioning while mental health is a state of emotional, psychological and social well-being coupled with satisfactory adjustment to society and to ordinary demands of life.
Today we answer the question – Why is there stigma surrounding mental illness?
Firstly, there is a lot of ignorance attached to mental illness. Most people cannot tell someone is suffering or rather when they do, it will be too late. This is not to say that you study mental health in depth, as a psychologist does NO! What I am saying is that you should familiarise yourself with matters pertaining to mental health. There are common symptoms one can look out for such as:
Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others.
Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks.
Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch, avoidance of over-stimulating situations.
Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity.
Feeling disconnected — a vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings, a sense of unreality.
Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events.
Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
Unusual behaviour – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behaviour.
Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care.
Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings.
You would not be mistaken if you saw at least five or more of the above because the symptoms of a mental illness tend to be consistent. Common distress, which everybody tends to experience occasionally, lasts for a short time. However, the symptoms of mental illness tend to last for long. If someone complains, about a loss of appetite that has lasted for two weeks or more there is a problem.
The symptoms associated with mental illness are the same as the symptoms associated with common distress This is the reason it is easy to overlook them in the name of everyone faces that. The difference is that when it comes to mental illness you will observe the symptoms longer. If distress lasts for at least 2 weeks there is a need for concern as it could be leading to something greater.
Secondly, people label everything as a mental illness, therefore, when a real mental illness is observed, the first thing they do is stigmatize.
You will hear people saying things out of fun. Things like:
My mother yelled at me yesterday. She is so BIPOLAR!
You almost gave me a PANIC ATTACK!
You are so thin. You look so ANOREXIC!
What is that you are saying? Quit being PSYCHO!
I am so into books these days. My OCD is coming out again.
Yesterday was not any good. I was feeling DEPRESSED!
I stayed up until 1 a.m. My INSOMNIA is so bad.
When used in this manner, you turn them into adjectives, which they are not.
MENTAL DISORDERS ARE NOT ADJECTIVES!
Lastly, the word mental in itself creates a stigma. The word mental means of relating to the total emotional and intellectual response of the mind or involving the process of thinking. The mental part of the brain is referred to as the soul or spirit. If mental involves the process of thinking then mentally ill shows that your thinking process could be distorted.
NOTE: could be NOT Must be
Furthermore, we cannot say brain illness because that means your problems will be fixed by a neurosurgeon but for mental illness, the person to go to is a psychologist more specifically, counselling or clinical psychologist.
In conclusion, it is important to understand what mental illness is so that we can STOP THE STIGMA. It is not just about a dysfunction in the mental capacities, it is pain, hurt, feelings of loneliness, disinterest, losing meaning in life, it is what you do not see but what another is feeling and experiencing.