Changing the Stigmas of Mental Health
Suicide Prevention Week – Tuesday.
Hello Beautiful people,
It seems as though I am a little a head of everybody else, but for those I’m not a head of, you can enjoy this now. For those I am a head of, you can read it, once you’ve finished dinner, woken up, or come home. You can also read it twice if you so desire.
Once Suicide Prevention week is over, I hope that everybody continues to be supportive toward those that need it. This also means supporting the supporters and sharing hope and love with everybody.
There is hope, there is always hope, it’s never to dark to come back from and it is never too late.
With all my heart,
Mental health has always had a stigma attached to it. There was a time, where this stigma was part of the discovery process of Mental Illness (I feel as though the phase ‘illness’ in this context has an overbearing negative connotation. As much as I loathe the term, I’ll stick with it for the sake of clarity). Of course, during this time, it was considered a good idea to drill through the skull and remove a piece of the brain (this later became lobotomy), hold people under ice water to shock the demons away and, due to lack of morality and understanding, keep people in overcrowded insane asylums were they were regularly beaten. Over the centuries, understanding changed and the process evolved. Once it was discovered that demonic possession wasn’t indeed to blame there was the rise of ‘moral treatment’. Which theorised that there were no demons, but Mental Illness was in fact caused by outward damage to the brain. ‘Moral treatment’ offered patients an environment where they were offered clean, healthy living. Which included religious teaching, exercise and jobs. Once problems with the the theory began to arise and it was seen as ineffective, it wasn’t long before physical restraints were once again used.
The 19th century methods paint a rather grim picture. And as the centuries changed, ‘cures’ came in the form of electro shock therapy, lobotomies, multi-coloured pills, strait jackets and still, insane asylums. So while the world changed, and the understanding of Mental Illness grew and became clearer, the methodology was just as barbaric. But alas, we are no longer living in times where such things are taken as normal, and Sylvia Plath would agree, are rather dehabiliting and unpleasant. Now of course, we have taken another evolutionary step in both knowledge and in treatment. I’m not saying we’re perfect, but we aren’t still lobotomising and that is a sign of progress. Furthermore, we now have state funded therapy programmes and countless help lines and support groups that are both state funded and are not. Socially Mental Illness is becoming easier to talk about and these conversations are becoming much more acceptable.
That said, as the centuries have worn on, there is still discrimination, there is still stigma and these are two of the greatest barriers to recovery. As a collective it seems as though society still isn’t mature enough to accept peoples differences. And it is easy to sit here, and blame society, but when it comes down to it, we are society. You and I. When you take a look around and see all the love that fuels Suicide Prevention Week, help lines and therapy, it is apparent that people are ready to grow. That individuals are slowly becoming a collective that is fighting to abolish the stigma that comes along with mental health. The ‘its all in your head’ attitude is beginning to run out. Unfortunately, it is still an attitude and ‘harden up’ is still a phrase people live by. Whether by their own admission or someone else’s attribution, it makes no difference. People only live by ‘harden up’ because of the stigma that is attached to Mental Illness.
Sadly, the people that are ready to grow, are pushing against those that aren’t. Those that still hold that Mental Illness is not a problem and not a worth while problem at that. The attached stigmas (and there are many) are further ruining the lives of people that simply don’t deserve it. And in many ways, to write that line is painful. These are simple lessons in morality, acceptance, and kindness that people seem to be missing on a large scale. In short, they are the part of changing the stigmas of mental health. This, along with education and importantly, open conversation. Encouraged conversation. It is time that such things were discussed openly and were discussed without fear of repercussion.
Part of stigma comes from categorising things we don’t understand and need to make sense of. People with Mental Illnesses have always been portrayed as insane, every where from America, to the former Soviet Union, to the United Kingdom to Australia and New Zealand. History has not been kind and here we need to educate. Depression and other Mental Illnesses are not simply the cause of one thing and with this knowledge, it is important to teach friends and parents and relatives that, instead of blaming themselves. And compounding the problem which in turn proliferates stigma. That love and patience and understanding are the best ways to help. If someone is ill, so to speak, they are not insane, they are not a monster that lacks a moral compass. They are simply in need of help.
Education, patience, love and kindness are all we need to change the stigma of Mental Illness. There are countless resources for those that are willing to learn. To take some time to understand what someone is going through and how it effects them, is a big step forward. Armed with that information, you can begin to help, learn how to approach the situation and how to react. The stigma that currently exists, is simply unnecessary and serves no purpose other than to alienate those who already feel alienated. They are in themselves, such simple things. Not only are they simple to give, but they are simple to foster and to teach. Knowledge can spread, and by taking the time to learn something about Mental Illness and the way it works, you can then teach somebody else, who can pass on that knowledge or apply it to their own life.
Stigma can be beaten, stigma will be beaten. It is a fight that involves community, every person doing the most that they can, opening discussion, consoling a friend, standing up for a loved one. Spending time with someone that needs you. Talking about trivial things until the sun comes up, or convincing them to go outside. People with Mental Illness, aren’t different, they aren’t broken and everything you can do to help, will not only help them, but also help to break the stigma.
Mental Health America (sorts information by category)
Facts (From TWLOHA)
The Royal College of Psychiatrists (A UK website, easy to use and read)