By Miranda Holguin
Many people who suffer from mental illness experience stigma, or the act of setting someone apart in a negative way, which often comes in the form of labeling and stereotypes. “Crazy” is a common label that people with mental illness are given, and this can sometimes lead to discrimination. I myself have an anxiety disorder and have experienced stigma from not only coworkers but also people I considered to be my friends. In order for mental illness stigma to come to an end, more people need to gain and spread awareness.
There are many false ideologies surrounding mental illness. Some people have claimed that people who have mental illness are pretending to have an illness just to receive attention or sympathy. Others believe mental illness is just a lack of personal strength or a result of poor parenting. Sometimes, people who suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are seen as dangerous and unstable. Unfortunately, these false assumptions can be detrimental to a person struggling with mental illness in many ways.
For example, if someone who thinks he or she might have a mental illness confides in someone who is not stigma-free, it may cause him or her to turn away from seeking professional help. A person might start to blame himself or herself for what he or she is going through, even though it is something that is unavoidable. Unfortunately, if someone with a mental illness does not seek the help he or she needs, it could result in suicide. I do not think the majority of people intend to label or discriminate against people with mental illnesses: they simply do not have a proper understanding.
It is human nature to shy away from things we do not understand, especially if it is something we cannot physically see. This explains why when some people are confronted by someone with a mental illness, they do not know how to react. Often, they find it easier to just ignore the issue at hand.
To overcome this, more people need to be informed about the facts related to mental illness. It should be instated in everyone’s mind that mental illness is equivalent to physical illness. When someone is hurt physically, the immediate reaction is to seek medical attention. This should be the same when faced with a mental illness. There is often a feeling of shame that deters people from seeking help, but there should be no shame in seeking treatment for mental health just like there is no shame for seeking an orthodontist for a toothache.
Another benefit to people understanding mental illness is the ability to identify the warning signs in their loved ones and possibly themselves. This can help a person decide if he or she needs to seek professional help. Once he or she seeks help, he or she will most likely receive a diagnosis. Getting diagnosed can help answer many questions and offer closure to someone who cannot explain what he or she has been feeling. Of course, there are many different types of mental illness and treatment plans, but the first step is identifying that there might be an illness. From there, a professional will be able to advise the person on what is best for himself or herself.
It is important to remember that someone with a mental illness is still a person. Those with a mental illness may have it, but it does not have them. There are biological reasons behind how they are feeling and acting, and there are ways to get help. Most importantly, a person with mental illness is not alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness hotline at 1(800) 950-NAMI or visit its website at www.nami.org for more information.
Sungah Choi / The Poly Post
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