Mental Health Stigma Awareness
By Christopher Naylor

“The stigma associated with mental illness harms the self-esteem of many people who have serious mental illnesses. An important consequence of reducing stigma would be to improve the self-esteem of people who have mental illnesses.” Source: ps.psychiatryonline.org. Mental health stigma damages self-esteem and delays recovery.

It was during 2004, upon my discharge from Ward 27 of Wellington Hospital into Porirua Community Mental Health Services, that my mood either continued through the depths of depression or back into the stagnated state of it.

Mental health stigma from others

In my view internal stigma is possibly caused by a health professional, friend or family member not thinking through, before talking sufficiently in an appropriately tactful manner. This can cause an ongoing state of unexpected internalised stigma.

“The stigmatizing of, and discriminating against, people with a mental health disorders is as old as humanity, but there has never before been a Zeitgeist, a moment, a social group, or the political will to focus on finding solutions, such as there is today.” Source: Understanding the Stigma of Mental illness; Theory and Interventions. Author: J Arboleda.Florez, N Sartorius-2008

A comment made very shortly before I was admitted to Wellington Hospital or shortly after by a flatmate at the time was, “If I’d known you would suffer from depression, I wouldn’t have lived with you”. Now it’s these kinds of external comments from people that, if anything, only stalled my own personal ownership of my recovery journey at that particular time. Society, not just nationwide but globally, needs to love all people equally. This should be regardless of any disadvantages some people may suffer from.

Mental health stigma thrives in the right conditions

People can try with their own strength and willpower and with the support of others to own their recovery. But if others’ attitudes affect us negatively, it unnecessarily sets us apart from the rest of society. Let’s consider alpine plants for example: they need a certain set of environmental conditions to survive. Likewise it’s the same for stigma. It needs a certain amount of negative conditions to be present within society for the brew to exist. But when the opposite is true, more people feel comfortable disclosing their challenges or disadvantages. Then it’s very possible stigma may disappear! Let’s hope.

Upon reflection it would appear people within any nation who are guilty of systemic stigma infliction lack care and altruism. We need to be having more discussions regarding how to cultivate a culture where this doesn’t occur! I don’t believe anyone said life would be easy, for anybody growing up in any culture. But to sit around acknowledging that stigma is so rife, and blatantly not do anything to resolve it is simply corrupt in conduct.

We need to create a culture that values everyone

Let’s all allow a culture of recovery so strong, which burns so bright, starting from the heart, so that mental health stigma and discrimination are not experienced by anyone who is disadvantaged by their health condition.

Reproduced with permission, originally published here


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