Mental illness is a predominant issue in society, affecting almost 20% of Australian adults annually. The understanding and respect we have for Mental illness is vital as these aspects can help prevent stigma associated with it and can enhance the recovery and support for the affected person. “We all talk to ourselves. Those we call mad just talk a little louder. ” ― Marty Rubin “We all talk to ourselves. Those we call mad just talk a little louder. ” ― Marty Rubin
Mental health is the sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem which enables an individual to fully enjoy life and appreciate other people. On the contrary, a mental illness is a health problem which significantly effects how a person thinks, feels, behaves and interacts between other people. Mental illness is not a specific disease. It comes in many forms and is prompted by various different aspects in an individual’s environmental, psychological and biological factors. This could include prenatal damage, an early loss of a parent or a loved one and substance abuse.
In society, the knowledge and understanding of mental illnesses have been neglected and consequently stigma has been created and those with the affected have been wrongfully condemned. Media coverage, stereotypes and lack of knowledge of mental illness have all greatly contributed to the growing negative perceptions within society. Media coverage has been a major impact on society as they constantly portray people with mental illness as irrationally violent, extremely disabled and unable to live a fulfilled life.
Media also tends to inaccurately report on their condition and describing them all collectively as ‘obsessive compulsive disorders’. A common stereotype, which is inflicted by a lack of understanding and knowledge, is the bizarre belief that a mental illness is contagious. This misbelief can lead to insane actions taken by those who believe it in order to avoid the ill. ‘Stigma is an attempt to label a group of people as less worthy of respect than others’ (SANE Australia). People who actively participate in stigma are those who use it to rationalise their actions toward the mentally ill.
Stigma associated with those who have mental illnesses include inaccurate and hurtful representations of them being violent, dangerous and inept. This leads society to feel distrust, fear, lead to avoidance and can significantly impact on the recovery and help-seeking, employment, self-confidence and families of the affected. The impacts of stigma on those with mental illness are demonstrated clearly through the statistics. The world Health Organisation agrees that out of 400 million people worldwide who are affected by mental illness, only 20% seek treatment.
Stigma is most commonly found in workplaces as there are many incidents of people affected by mental illness, receiving the ‘cold shoulder’ as a result of stereotypes and losing their jobs for being admitted in hospital. This stigma is originated at a school level where exclusion and bullying first appear. We need to diminish the occurrence of stigma and break down the barriers of mental illness for the generations to come in order to allow people with mental illness to feel less ashamed in getting treatment.
The relief of judgement, stress and stigma is the key to recovery as those affected have one less thing to worry about as they would have no reason to hide. This can be achieved through the practice of early education of mental health and mental illness, commencing in late primary school years. The study of the types, symptoms and properties of mental illness and treatment should be compulsory as they allow children to make judgements on their mental status and seek help if they have any doubts. Another strategy that can be implemented to help people seek help is through a mental help telephone support, such as kid’s helpline.
Telephone counselling services can be useful and productive if you’re ashamed or afraid as they are responsible to keep your identity and confessions legally confidential. When you have gone through a traumatic loss and are suffering from grief and change, you should immediately take action to prevent the possibility of a mental illness or to treat the beginnings of a mental illness as early detection is the key. You can treat these aspects by talking to a councillor or psychiatrist. If you are not comfortable with these methods, meditation, yoga or any other physical activities that you enjoy can suffice as a stress relieving activity.
These activities reduce stress hormones and boost your endorphins. Endorphins are released during exercise and produce a feeling of euphoria and a general state of well-being. Physical activity has been shown to rapidly recover people with mild depression and is correlated with good mental health as people age. Although stigma and stereotypes are still common, teachings of mental illness have grown over the years. This has consequently resulted in the reduction of stigma and therefore the increase of help sought out.