End the stigma surrounding mental illness

Working to change the way society views mental illnesses

aubrey harrell, Editorial Board

What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness refers to the broad array of mental health conditions that affect a person’s thoughts and behavior. Common mental illnesses often talked about are depression, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, anxiety disorders, and addictive behaviors. While these conditions are some of the more common mental illnesses talked about, there are many more that exist. Mental illness differ in symptoms depending on the illness. The severity of mental illness is often understated, and many people worldwide don’t understand the effects the illness has on a person because mental illness affects the person internally and cannot be observed physically. While mental illness should be recognized as a very serious problem and taken seriously, unfortunately due to misunderstandings and preconceived notions, mental illness is often seen as taboo.


Effects of Stigma

The stigma and discrimination people suffering from mental illness face indisputably can worsen someone’s condition, as well as prevent them from seeking treatment. All too often, mental illnesses aren’t seen as serious as physical conditions, which leads to a sense of shame and feelings of weakness in people that have mental health disorders. Studies show that between 30 and 80 percent of people with mental health conditions don’t receive proper treatment. This is often because of the fear that being labeled mentally ill will negatively affect how people perceive them. It’s proven that mental illness sufferers are less likely to find work, more likely to live in poverty, and are often socially excluded in society. This is a result of the stereotyped views people have of mental illness, such as the theory that people with mental illness are dangerous. It’s incredibly unfair that mental illness victims have to face the unjustifiable discrimination they do while also trying to manage their illness.


Cause Of Stigma


As is the usual case with discrimination, misinformation and ignorance is the primary contributing factor. Media portrayal of mental illness often perpetuates stereotypes that the mentally ill are unstable, murderous, and violent, which is incredibly harmful to how people view mentally ill people. The lack of education about mental illness is also a cause of stigma. The reservation to speak about these detrimental illnesses leads people to see them as abnormal and bizarre. Many times, people only learn more about mental illness when a loved one is diagnosed as mentally ill.


What’s Being Done?

Educating people about mental illness is the best way to end the stigma surrounding it. Since the misunderstandings about mental illness are firmly rooted in society, it will most likely be a slow process. Luckily, there are many organizations working to normalize and speak out about mental illness, such as YoungMinds UK, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and many more.