Breaking Stigma - Let's Make Mental Health Mainstream
Have you ever witnessed a situation where someone has berated an individual for their concerning mental health? Have you ever heard someone call an individual “mad” or “psycho” simply because they displayed signs of depression, anxiety, OCD or other mental health disorders? Have you ever seen someone deny an individual the respect or empathy they deserve to cope with their life stressors?
These are all based in the deeply rooted stigma that our culture has built around mental health. Someone struggling with a disorder like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is often met with judgment, negative attitudes and social discrimination. They are often left out of social gatherings because they will uncomfortable around someone who is acting on their obsessive compulsions, like repeatedly washing hands, an overindulgence in cleaning and organisation, or habitual patterns. They are taunted, made fun of, and simply excluded from their family and friend circles.
Individuals with Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other such disorders are even treated with fear as if they are dangerous and unpredictable. Even young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder receive poor treatment from teachers, other children, and other parents who call them names like “abnormal”, “mental” and “weird”. We take this initiative to raise more awareness around this stigma because the elimination of stigma is a major step towards supporting individuals to achieve good mental health. When we lead our communities with stigma, shame, and disdain, we deprive people of seeking help when they need it most desperately. When they need support and understanding, they are often driven into isolation, which makes their conditions much worse than it was before.
I urge everyone to develop compassion and kindness towards their friends, family, and peers who may be suffering silently or who may express their concerns to you. When we accept them and their mental struggle, we open an opportunity for them to heal and seek professional support. When we accept them, we give them the ray of light that can motivate them to get better; the knowledge of being loved and accepted unconditionally plays a big role in how we progress toward getting better.
Let us take a pledge to educate ourselves and our communities to understand that mental health illnesses are not arising from being lazy or stupid; they are actual diagnosable conditions which affect the mind and body both, just as any other physical illness. Let us take a pledge to build a support group around us, where our loved ones can reach out and confide their fears in you, rather than being fearful of your judgment.