We’ve let Stigma erect barriers around effective treatment and recovery. It’s time to take those barriers down.
“I am not mad, I don’t need therapy.”
How many times have we heard similar things being said by people around us? All of it boils down to one six lettered word that in today’s time, is one of the major causes of why we several people are not choosing to seek help.
The word is Stigma. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Stigma refers to a set of beliefs and ideas, generally negative, that stem from a prejudice against something. However, it has a much greater role in determining how people live all over the world and has plagued every society that was ever built by Sapiens.
This prejudice can often develop into a stereotype which leads to discrimination and neglect. There has been a long history of stigma associated with the concept of therapy in India and over the world. In fact, the term “mental illness” itself is looked down upon and not given due importance as a medical phenomenon. Because of this stigma, the state of mental healthcare is in shambles, and the persons suffering from it are unable to seek the help they need. This stigma around mental illness and healthcare finds its foundations for various reasons.
Lack of Understanding
There is an unawareness in the minds of a greater portion of the population about what mental illness is and this unawareness has been somewhat normalized. This leads them to concoct definitions of the terms related to mental health and come to extreme conclusions that are usually baseless or stereotypical. Since most of the symptoms of mental illnesses are not tangibly visible, people tend to not give it much significance when compared with physical illness and care.
How is Stigma harming?
The stigma around mental illness can have many detrimental effects on the people suffering from it and on society as a whole.
- It leads to fewer opportunities for patients, as they are unable to overcome a disorder that is holding them back.
- It can lead to perpetuated emotional trauma. Therapy helps in dealing with emotional abuse and a majority of the people not seeking help stands as a major obstruction in getting better.
- It can lead to harassment, bullying or make people a subject of taunts by their friends and family if they are seeking therapy.
- Mental healthcare is not covered by most health insurances, which perpetuates the stigma around it, by taking away from its due credibility and importance. It makes mental healthcare a low-priority treatment.
Actively working towards removing this stigma and its adverse effects from society is a difficult task but one that is exceedingly urgent. With rising cases of depression and suicidal tendencies, mental healthcare is a crucial sector to be attended to.
- Vent It Out: Being vocal about the experience and benefits of therapy can make a huge difference in its perception and awareness. Therapists themselves as well as the educated population can spread more awareness about the need for therapy. Social Media has played a major role in the transformation of how therapy and mental healthcare are perceived, which has led to a reduction of prejudice against mental health in urban areas.
- Media Portrayal: Entertainment and mass media industries also play a key role, simply due to the massive reach they have to even the most remote lands. For years therapists and mental illness have been projected in a terrible light in the media, which adds to the stigma already prevalent in the minds of people. These fields need to take accountability of the incorrect information they spread and do better when it comes to spreading awareness. Although we see accurate and positive depiction of mental illnesses and therapy in movies like Karthik Calling Karthik and Dear Zindagi, amongst others, the content around the topic of mental health needs to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years.
- Educate yourself: With the internet penetration reaching new heights everyday, resources to educate oneself about mental illness and healthcare are highly accessible today. Making a conscious effort to confront yourself against your prejudice and learning more about the topic before forming an opinion about it, will not only help you, but also your loved ones who might be in need of help and support.
- Do not isolate: This pointer applies to both, the people who use stigma as a way to bully others, and the ones who tend to self-stigmatize themselves by ignoring what their mind is telling them. Check in with yourself and your dear ones, and let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. Not letting a person feel isolated can often be the first step in getting better. Just a message asking “How are you?” can also go a long way.
- Seek help: The biggest and most important step in not letting stigma take over your life is to seek help. Speaking to a professional mental healthcare expert and allowing them to prepare a diagnosis is the best means of dealing with mental illness. Amigo connects users with verified therapists at affordable rates alongside trying to create solutions to transform how mental health care functions across the subcontinent. You can book sessions in just three easy steps and connect with experts from the comfort of your home.
So, if you are someone or know someone who might need help, reach out to a professional and experience how therapy can help you live the life you deserve!