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Overall mental health and beating mental health stigma

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Stigma is a strong feeling of disapproval that people associate with a particular attribute, more so when it is unfair. People suffering from mental disorders need constant support and encouragement to speak their mind in order to cope with their condition.

Unfortunately, negative attitude towards mental health conditions like depression or bipolar disorder isn’t uncommon. There are many stereotypes associated with mental disorders, such as beliefs that the person may be unstable, crazy or even violent, which often lead to discrimination. However, such destructive myths can alienate a patient.

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Some of the harmful effects of stigma against mental illnesses are –

  • One may avoid or stop seeking treatment
  • Lack of support and understanding from family, friends and others around, can lead to reduced self-confidence.
  • Lack of career and social engagement opportunities, prevents one from leading a balanced and productive life.
  • The person can be bullied or harassed by others discriminating against him.
  • Health insurance doesn’t adequately provide for treatment or therapies needed for mental illness.

Coping with stigma

  • Educate yourself – Most stigmas are a result of lack of awareness. Educate yourself, your family and friends about the mental illness, its symptoms, treatment options etc. Discuss with the family and friends to seek proper treatment.
  • Commit to treatment – Do not let the stigma of being labeled, prevent a patient from seeking help. Treatments like Psychotherapy, Meditation etc., can help in relieving symptoms that interferes with patient’s everyday life.
  • Care and Empathize – Do not equate a person with his mental illness. Avoid using negative words like crazy, lunatic etc., towards a person. Ensure the person is not isolated with everyone’s behavior. Showing love and care can encourage the patient to be more open to treatment and counseling.
  • Fight perception – We ought to look beyond the stereotypes used to describe people with mental illness and even encourage others to understand the condition and its symptoms to help people suffering from it.
  • Support – Family and peer support can greatly influence the patient’s condition. Families of a patient can align themselves with local or national support groups which offer local programs and resources to help reduce stigma by educating people with mental illness as well as others.

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Better awareness and understanding, coupled with family and other support system can help overcome the stigma around mental illnesses.

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