Stigma is all around us and can be found in many different places, taking many different forms. Some is very overt, from the person fired from their job. To the one verbally and physically abused by those close to them. Then there are the more subtle such as little jibes that your own mind directs at you. To sly comments and looks that you barely noticed. So when we are tackling stigma, we are fighting on many fronts in many different ways.
An essential and central part of the iam1in4 mission, is in tackling stigma and beginning to chip away at the power it holds over so many of us. With that in mind it is essential to know where the most damaging aspects of stigma are coming from, what form it is taking and the cause/reason for it.
We asked you from where you have faced the worst and most damaging stigma for your mental health and 820 replied.
With 37.2%, by far the source of stigma that is deemed the damaging is from family. With school or work (depending on age I would assume!) coming second with 29%. When we remember that this is a representation of the most damaging stigma and not the most frequent, this makes an awful lot of sense. Home and work will account for the majority of your waking life. Friends (5.9%) can come and go, but family is there for life, work is there for the long term.
The source of stigma that came third is ‘myself’ or self-stigmatisation with 12.6%. We have all been attacked by our minds at some point. Our brains tell us we are weak, useless, inferior to others because of our illness. It tells us we should hide and ignore the problem. That we are a failure. These are just lies told by our brain and are not the truth.
The remaining options all gained less than 10% each. Partners who have great capacity to do damage came in with 6.8%, which implies that the majority of partners have reacted relatively well. Friends, as mentioned came in with 5.9% and finally ‘other’ had 70 votes, making up 8.5% of the total.
Almost all of those who voted ‘other’ and who left a comment stated that the source had been medical professionals. Often mental health trained medical professionals. I will start by saying the majority of people who work in this field are there for the right reasons and do a great job despite the cuts in funding they constantly face. However we can not ignore the fact that there are all too many who do not carry out this vital job in the way they should. Peoples well-being are in their hands, their trust and hopes of recovery often depend on how well these people do their jobs.
Whilst I don’t have the answer and am 100% anti the privatisation of the NHS, it must be said that the private sector are much better at taking patient/customer/end user experience and feedback in to account. The future of their business often depends on it. It provides accountability, highlights areas for improvement and more. Find me an NHS patient that has been asked to rate their experience and give full feedback on the treatment they received. Such an initiative would not change the world, but there will be many little things that can be done that would change the way people are treated.
Tackling Stigma – The Million Dollar Question
Knowing this is all well and good, but what can we do about it? How do we begin to set about the task of tackling stigma. In our last survey we looked at whether stigma had increased or decreased. The conclusion being that whatever changed had been so minimal that the answer almost didn’t matter.
There is no easy, quick answer, though I do plan on writing and indepth study on tackling stigma. The problem would’ve been solved by now if there were an easy solution. We are trying to de-stigmatise something that is hard to define. What is mental health, where does it start to be a ‘condition’, how do you get a non-sufferer to relate? These and many more questions have little consensus and research into causes, treatments are too inconsistent.
How did Darwin convince people of evolution prior to solid evidence? Difficult task, but with solid, reliable evidence it’s a much easier task. There are still questions over whether chemicals in the brain and depression are linked. If so, does an imbalance in chemicals in the brain cause depression, or does depression cause in imbalance in chemicals. There is currently no answer to this. If someone is aware of an answer to this, please, please send me a link to the study!
Knowledge is Power
I am a believer that knowledge and conversation will always help improve the situation. We should talk about what we do know, share our experiences, be unashamed. Tackle the low hanging fruit – those who are open to the conversation but don’t have knowledge. The more who come round to the truth of mental health, the rarer those who hold the stigma will be. The more extreme, or nonsensical they will seem.
There are many people don’t drink and drive, not because they don’t want to, but because they know they will look like a twat if they do. Time to do the same to those who would stigmatise such a large portion of the population.