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Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Essay

Who would you consider to be stronger, someone who is battling cancer or depression? There is no definite way of telling who is stronger. Most people would say the patient battling cancer because they are suffering from a physical condition and cancer patients are often perceived as hero’s where as people with a mental illness are labeled as being “crazy”. No illness of any kind should be looked down upon, but mental illness is. Mental health is not only looked down upon by people but also by the media in movies and other forms.

No one knows how this stigma started, but what they do know is it needs to end. The stigma surrounding mental health is a major factor hindering effective treatment because there is great deal of negative stereo types and discrimination against mental health. This stigma affects the treatment process as “many people avoid seeking out help for psychological problems because of the perceived stigma associated with needing mental health care” [1]. Mentally ill people often will not get treatment because of the attitudes of others.

As said by the Canadian Medical Association “attitudes toward mental illness are a cause for concern” [3]. “Almost half of Canadians, 46 per cent, think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behavior”[3]. This exact thinking is what drives patients away from treatment. They feel as if getting treatment is going to make people dislike them and make them feel weak and powerless. Due to this behavior “61 per cent, would be unlikely to go to a family doctor with a mental illness” [3]. This is a problem because in some mental illnesses not getting treatment could eventually lead to death.

The fear of death and treatment could be stopped by just ending the shame and stigma of coming forward with a mental illness. ““Mentally ill people are nuts, crazy, wacko. ” “Mentally ill people are morally bad. ” “Mentally ill people are dangerous and should be locked in an asylum forever. ” “Mentally ill people need somebody to take care of them” [4]. These are often the expressions used to describe people with a mental illness. These are the negative stereotypes that surround mental health. People think that someone with mental health is at fault, because they think they are weak and just let it happen.

They think that giving them detrimental stereotypes will make them smarten up and become stronger. This does not benefit the mentally ill at all because it just makes them feel as if it is their fault and they also become reluctant to get help. These stereotypes often lead to more than just name calling. People get discriminated against in everyday life such as the workplace. “Of all persons with disabilities, those with a serious mental illness face the highest degree of stigmatization in the workplace, and the greatest barriers to employment” [6].

They often have trouble finding a job because they get turned down due to their past or present mental illness or they do not bother to look for one because they anticipate discrimination. If some with mental illness actually manages to get a job they will usually get a lack of opportunities, over inferring of mistakes to illness, social exclusion, and gossip based around them. It does not just happen in the workplace it happens everywhere and usually by everyone. Even your friends with follow the stereotypes and discriminate against you.

Some could push away because they have heard the stereotypes and feel as if it is not safe to be around some with a mental illness. The stigma makes the mentally ill feel weak, and feel as if they do not need treatment. The reason they feel so weak is because people are always blaming the patient. People think that you can control whether or not you get a mental illness and it is entirely your fault if you do because you could have become stronger. People refuse to get treatment because they do not want to be labelled with being weak. This is what causes most people to not mention to anyone that they have a mental illness.

They do not like to talk about it just for the reason of being discriminated against. Sometimes they do not even tell their family and friends. It makes them feel alone when most of the time your friends and family are there for them. The reason the stigma and being discriminated against is because the public is uneducated. People just go off what they see on television and in movies. “The mass media are an important source of information about mental health and have an important role in cultivating perceptions and stigma” [2]. But even there they have misleading information.

All too often, the media use sensational language that tends to perpetuate myths and stereotypes regarding mental illness, promote fear in the community and lead to irresponsible conclusions being drawn”[7]. For example in “Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning depiction of the Joker in the latest Batman film gives the public the wrong impression of people with mental health problems” [5] as he is displayed as a schizophrenic with a split personality, but that is wrong because schizophrenic do not have split personalities, and also in the Batman films his foes, the joker and penguin are called “insane”.

It is not only in movies, but also in newspapers, journals, blogs, etc. Discrimination can basically be found anywhere in the media. Media drives our world today, with saying that it then influences our actions towards mental health. It is the driving force towards discrimination against the mentally ill. If you educate and control the media you can change the views of the people. The treatment of mental health has hit a barrier because of the actions and thoughts of others.

The actions of others makes the mentally ill feel weak, alone, and also makes them feel as if it is their own fault. The media plays the biggest role in this stigmatization, because most people believe and follow what they see and read in the media. If we can change the media we can overcome the stigma and make mental illness just as important as other major illnesses like cancer. The mentally ill will not have to feel alone anymore.

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