Today is a guest post from one of my bestest friends. She also has a mental illness….but don’t let that make you think she’s crazy…meet her first :D. I hope you love her as much as I done 🙂
The Random Ramblings of an Insane-o
Stigma – Shame, Disgrace, Dishonour
The shame or disgrace attached to something regarded as socially unacceptable.
I thought I would start this post with a dictionary meaning of stigma. As I am creating this post in Microsoft Word, I thought I would just use the in-built dictionary. Being familiar with Microsoft Word, I thought I would use the shortcut keys CTRL + F7 to bring up the meaning for me, instead of using the Google search page to find out the associated meaning. For those of you who are familiar with Word, you would know that CTRL + F7 brings up the thesaurus first. I was shocked to see three words come up recommended as a substitute for stigma. Shame, disgrace, dishonour. These three words are much harsher than the more commonly used word, stigma, to describe the negative view that tends to follow around the many, many people in today’s world affected by a mental illness.
I guess this just angered me even more. Statistics have proven that in your lifetime, if you are not affected by a mental illness personally, you will at least have someone in your life, be it a relative or friend, who sadly is. Yet mental illness is looked upon as shameful, disgraceful, dishonourable and socially unacceptable. I think the biggest thing is that so many people are afraid of what they do not understand and when you get enough people who do not understand, such a stigma is created.
It is slowly being proven that with education, the stigma can be lifted from mental illness. Look at depression, for example. Although it is still not fully understood, although some people still think back in the dark ages with the belief that people should just “snap out of it”, there are now more people seeking help for depression than ever before. And personally, I see this as quite an achievement from 20 years ago. Even if this is just the beginning and there is so much more work that needs to be done, even if there are still people with narrow-minded views, even if some people still cling onto the belief that mental illness is for “crazy” people, even then, it is good to see some progress, and I hold onto the hope that one day the stigma will no longer exist.
Because depression is so widely spread, and most of us know someone with depression, I believe that it will probably be the easiest mental illness to lift stigma from. However, even this is proving to be a mammoth task, with so many people being afraid of what they don’t understand. Which, then leaves me feeling even more concerned for the stigma ever lifting off other mental illnesses. Serious mood disorders such as bipolar, personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder, and of course the very stigmatised disorders such as schizophrenia.
One day at work I was reminded of people’s narrow-minded views, when a colleague commented that schizophrenic patients should be put to sleep with a lead injection. This made me so angry. Why are mentally ill patients looked upon this way? How would you feel if your son or daughter had schizophrenia and these narrow-minded people were in control of the world’s decisions and had the right to punish your son or daughter to death for being sick? Yes, SICK, ILL, UNWELL. The fact of the matter is mental illness is exactly that, an ILLNESS. What makes me the most angry is that people with cancer are given empathy and kind thoughts, people with heart conditions, people with normal streamline illnesses are treated with upmost respect and empathy, and yet once you add mentally ill to your patient cv, it seems you are not worthy of medical treatment, you are not worthy of kindness and empathy. If you are depressed you simply need to “suck it up”, if you are schizophrenic you should be “put to your death” before you harm others. It angers me that people have these views. It angers me that I am made to feel pathetic and like I am using valuable health resources from people who “deserve it more than I do”.
Educate people, allow them to see what really happens. Why hide the facts of mental illness? Why only let them see the negative? Every time a court case happens and a mentally ill person is “found not guilty by reason of mental defect” the media swarms all over it and alas, more negative publicity is shared with the ever impressionable public. Yet, one would wonder, if mental illness was more socially accepted, if there was no shame, if there was no “stigma” attached to mental health would the mentally ill offender have sought help for their illness? Would their family have been more understanding and realised that something was wrong and that it was okay to seek help for their ILLNESS? Could the crime that had been committed by the ILL patient been avoided had they received proper treatment BEFORE the crime was committed?
It is 2011. We are no longer in the 1940’s. As the world keeps turning there are more and more studies into mental illnesses. So many new discoveries, so many new treatments, so many new warning signs revealed, and yet the media is yet to publish these. The only media attention mental illness gets is the “NEGATIVE PUBLICITY” when a mentally ill patient is found not guilty of a crime, when they were not of sane mind when it was committed. I really do not see the harm in educating the world about mental illness. I do not see the harm in making it socially acceptable to be “SICK”. I can not think of one reason why mentally ill patients should be treated any different to any other patient. Before you hate on people for being “INSANE” enough to commit a crime, maybe you should work towards making it socially acceptable for them to get help, therefore, avoiding the crime altogether.
I guess as I have been coping with mental illness for as long as I can remember, I have grown up around people, who like me, are suffering. And I am proof, that with proper help, mental illness can be managed. And I often sit and wonder, in my random thoughts, about how different the world would be if everyone had the opportunity to get the help I have had. I often wonder how if there was no stigma, how many people would reach out for help. I often wonder how many suicides, how many horrible things might have been avoided if only getting help for the mentally ill was socially accepted and encouraged. I know I am but one person, but if all of us “one person’s” formed an alliance, if everyone cared enough to open their hearts and realise that mental illness is an ILLNESS, maybe then, the world would be a better place. Maybe then people won’t lose their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts to suicide. Maybe then people who need help for their ILLNESS would get the help that they need and finally, the narrow-mindedness of people in relation to mental illness would cease to exist, and the fool at work who suggested a lead injection for those with schizophrenia would be but one voice, drowned out by so many others, who truly do understand.