Mental Health is a highly debated topic in today’s world of news, campus shootings, political agendas, and word on the street. It is used both as a scape goat to decrease attention toward gun control policies and as a rally for more attention toward the homeless population and suicide prevention. This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “Dignity”. This perfectly aligns with a cartoon that I found online the other day.
If you were to ask anyone on the street what the first word they thought of when they hear mental illness, it most likely is something close to “crazy”, “sick”, “psycho”, “sad” and “weak”. These perceptions of mental illness do not inspire someone to have dignity within their struggle. Mental Illness is not only Schizophrenia and Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is only what the media likes to highlight and depict on famous television shows. Mental health also includes things like Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Post-partum depression, Eating Disorders, and Addictions. These are issues that an average person can develop at any point throughout their lives. It affects human beings WORLDWIDE. One in four adults and one in ten children are likely to have a mental health struggle in any given year. Thousands of people with mental health conditions can experience fear of judgement, discrimination, emotional and physical abuse, lack of resources, lack of qualified mental health professionals, and poor quality of appropriate care. These people are average people who more often than not try to conceal their struggle in order to feel normal.
What can we do about it? Know the facts, show compassion, advocate for mental health rights, and help reduce the stigma (#OwnYourIssues).
If we shift our perception from pity and fear to hope and encouragement, mental health might not be such a taboo thing for people to accept. Working in this field, I get to witness clients who feel so much shame talking about their struggles with anyone, let alone someone they have loved and trusted forever. So many clients feel alone in the process and fear being labeled. The way society looks at people who “need help”, it makes it incredibly difficult for others to seek assistance, let alone admit there is a problem to begin with. Instead of judging someone’s struggle, hand out a stick. Dignity and respect is deserved for the struggle that thousands, if not millions, have with their own brain chemistry and circumstances. Dignity and respect for the rehab visits, the therapy hours, the doctor visits, the medications, etc. The more caring and empathy that we show towards people with mental illness, the more we can do to help.