Friday, December 2, 2016

Stop Mental Health Stigma Now

           Mental illness knows no race, gender, or sexual orientation. Anyone can suffer from it but, there is an overwhelming stigma that has been placed upon it. The fear that has circulated around this topic needs to be stopped. We as a society are afraid of the unknown, and if we do not understand something it can make us feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or even scared. The way the media has portrayed people who suffer from these illnesses as being unpredictable and has made the victims of mental illness more likely face discrimination at some point in their lives. The people who suffer from mental illnesses need to get some sort of help but they may be afraid to get it because of the labels that society can put upon them. They don't want to be depicted as psychotic or unstable; they want to feel accepted for who they are. But unfortunately, they will try and hide the fact that they could be suffering. They might not want it to get out they are seeking help because they do not want to seem mentally weak or unstable. That’s why it is very important these people get the adequate care they need, so if you know someone and see the signs of a mental illness do not be afraid to speak out. We need to come together to help diminish these stigmas. You speaking out against These stigmas can really make a change in someone’s life. It can show them hope to keep pushing on and know that life is a wonderful experience.  These illnesses are not something that should be taken lightly. In fact, if something is not done the illnesses can take control of someone’s life and could make it even harder to recover.
            While I was researching this topic I kept asking why the people suffering from mental health issues were categorize as being violent and unpredictable. Stephen Lawrie, head of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, gives a reason for this stigma of mental health, and that reason is fear. As humans, we are not very fond of the unknown or when something is unpredictable. It’s just part of our nature to figure out exactly what it is and when we do not understand something it makes us feel uncomfortable (Lawrie 2015). A group that capitalizes on that fear is the media. In the world of the media today quantity is valued over quality because people expect quick results, which news outlets pride themselves on getting the information out first. If you were in a room with a family member or friend who happens to suffer from a mental illness, and you see these stigmas being placed on them, speak out. Reassure them that it is just a way the media grabs attentions of viewers. Let them know that’s just a small percentage of people and they are certainly like that.
            Media tends to use mental illness as a crutch when it comes to figuring out why a person has committed a violent act of crime. According to Michael Ketteringham M.D., M.P.H., People who commit a violent crime are frequently labeled psychos,” “maniacs,” or “schizophrenics” by headline writers and newscasters, inaccurately linking violence and mental illness in the public mind” (Levin 2011). Because of the medias negative portrayal of those with a mental illness studies have shown that “61 percent of Americans believe that people with schizophrenia are violent toward others, and 50 percent describe them as unpredictable” (Levin 2011). Since a mental illness has been brought up with common words such as “psycho” and “maniac”, it can bleed over into other mental illnesses as well. Thus making the general social perception of mental illness fall under this category.
            If you happen to be facing discrimination in the workplace know there are laws in place to protect you from this harassment. Also, if you are witnessing this harassment you can speak out against the behavior. Let it be known that you will not stand for harassment and stigmatism. Stopping the problem at its source is a great way to diminish these actions. The American Disabilities Act and The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are set in place so you can feel safer at work (NAMI Work). If you happen to be someone with a family member who suffers from mental health issues there is a law that is set in place in order to help you with taking care of your loved one. The Family Medical Leave Act will allow you to take twelve weeks off of work to take care of any family member that needs your help (NAMI Work). Although these weeks off are unpaid it is still a great law set in place.
            Now, the majority of people who suffer from a mental illness are not those who are admitted into a psychiatric ward. They can be everyday people like you and me who lead a productive life in society. These people could be coworkers, friends, or even family members. So, if you knew someone who was suffering would you not feel obligated to help? Catching the signs early could be the difference of a full speedy recovery or someone’s life being consumed by an awful illness. But, what are the signs? Normally, you can catch on these signs pretty quickly if you are close with the person. These signs can be dramatic change in sleep and eating patterns, feelings of anger, social withdraw (NHA). If you happen to catch these signs, then speak out. Make it known that you care about the other persons wellbeing. Talk to them and let them know they are not alone, and they have many people who are willing to help them get better. Also, tell the person that it is okay to speak about their mental health. If we can normalize these issues, then maybe the stigmatism can go away.
            Self-diagnoses can be a problem when talking about mental health issues as well. Some people feel if they can find out what is wrong with them on the internet. Then they will be able to decide what is best for them, but that is not the case. When searching for a diagnosis over the internet many over exaggerated answers can pop up for just a simple system. For example, say you have a splitting headache. While searching for this symptoms online you are likely to come across brain tumor as a result of the search (Foundations). People who take these diagnoses seriously would begin to panic. If you would happen to see those results that would be a perfectly normal reaction. If you were to believe them hopefully you would go out and seek medical attention. The same principles should apply when we are talking about a mental health issue. If you feel like you suffer from a mental illness and you look up the symptoms, you need to get the proper care you need. Instead of living in the fear thinking you might have the problem, you need to seek professional help.
            There is one brief topic that needs to be brought up when talking about self-diagnosis is claiming you have the illness when in fact you really do not. These are not problems are not here for you to grasp attention for yourself. You should not down play these mental health issues. These illnesses can take over people’s lives and hurt families, and that is not something you should joke about. It also helps to add on to the stigmatization of the mentally ill. Associating words like crazy, unstable, or unpredictable to these illnesses will contribute to the stigmatism. If you truly believed you had a mental illness the smartest thing to do would be going out and seeking medical attention. The people who suffer from these illnesses do not want to have them, so why would you?
            Unfortunately, since people are not willing to speak out until the situation has become far worse, suicide is very prominent problem among people who suffer from a mental health issues. It is said that ninety percent of all suicides can be linked to someone who suffers from a mental health issue (NAMI Suicide). This is another reason why speaking out and noticing the signs are important to the health of the afflicted. Signs for suicide are very similar to the ones that were previously stated. If the person is suffering from depression like symptoms, they could also be vocal about it. Statements like talking about how they are a terrible person, saying the world would be better off without them, or saying they have nothing to live for should raise a red flag. Be there to reassure the person that their life is full of meaning, but most importantly get them to agree to seek professional help, it could be the matter of life or death.
            Substance abuse is a problem amongst this community. Since, people suffering from these illnesses do not want to hurting the way they are. They will try to outsource to other options to stimulate themselves. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “people who suffer from a severe mental illness are 4 times more likely to be heavy alcohol users (four or more drinks per day); 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana regularly (21 times per year); and 4.6 times more likely to use other drugs at least 10 times in their lives” (NIDA 2014). If the person you love are showing these characteristic and are starting to develop terrible addictions. Know there are numbers and rehabilitation programs that you can contact to help make the person you care about better again. You do not have to fight these battles alone, and there are many people willing to help. If the problem would happen to resort to it an intervention the next best thing to do would be to contact a professional to help guide you and your family through the process.
            As a community, I think it is very important that we come together to help the people in need. Unity is one thing we as humans strive for, and strength in numbers will help our cause hands down. You may be asking yourself what else could you do in order to bring clarity to these stigmas? In fact, there are many things that can bring attention to this issue. If we as a community, we can unify to construct charity events that could help immensely. These events could be 5k runs, golf tournaments, bake sales, or talent shows. All the proceeds would go to organizations working to help stop mental illness and stigma. We need to show the world we are not afraid to stand up for what is right; as well as, letting the world know we will not live in the shadows of mental health illness. We will come together to overcome these stigmas and let no one stand in the way, but we cannot do that without the help of the community.
            Other than getting rid of mental illness stigma; if there was one thing I would want you to take from this paper is do not be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Do not be afraid to make a difference. If you care about something that you think should change, make the effort to do so. This world is not perfect, and it certainly has its issues. I truly believe if the human race can band together to stop the stigmatization of the mentally ill, as well as all stigmatism, the world can become a better place. These are the people we care about most who can be suffering everyday thinking there is no end to their misery. So, if you know a loved one who needs help do not be afraid to speak up. The road to recovery might not be easy and it will take time, but in the long run it will be worth it. Stand up and speak out and fight for what is right. Let us end mental health stigmatism so we can build a better future.

Work Cited
Foundations Recovery Network. Issues and Dangers of Self-Diagnosis,, Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.

Lawrie, Stephen. Mental Health CMVM Psychiatry at Work, The University of Edinburgh College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine, 4 Aug. 2016, Accessed 26 Oct. 2016.

Levin, Aaron. "Media Cling to Stigmatizing Portrayals of Mental Illness." Psychiatric News, 16 Dec. 2011, vol. 26 issue 24. ed. Accessed 28 Oct. 2016.

Mental Health America. Mental Illness and the Family: Recognizing Warning Signs and How to Cope, Accessed 13 Nov. 2016.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Risk of Suicide, Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Severe mental illness tied to higher rates of substance use, 3 Jan. 2014, Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.

National Alliance on Mental Health. Succeeding at Work Accessed 17 Nov. 2016.