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Mental Health Dignity – A Brief Guide to Tackle Stigma associated with Mental Health

Mental Health Dignity – A Brief Guide to Tackle Stigma associated with Mental Health



WHO estimates that around 450 million people suffer from mental health disorders worldwide. While millions of people have some form of mental health issues, the stigma and misconception continues to be. This stigma can often influence how we view people with mental illness. It is easy to label them as outsiders or people different from us.

However, it is very likely that many people we know have battled with a mental illness at some point in their lives. It is high time that we realise that mental illness needs to be combated as a society. It’s time to make dignity and mental health associated with each other. Reach out to us on our 24/7 helpline  +91 97414 76476 or mail us at info@cadabams.org for any assistance or queries about mental health disorders.

According to WHO, mental health disorders are generally characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour, and dysfunctional relationships with others. Intermittent periods of anxiety or erratic behaviour might not be considered as the signs of mental health disorders, however, if they are recurrent and entail physical, and social behavioural impairment, it’s time to seek professional help.

The Need to Tackle Stigma

While millions of people worldwide have some type of mental illness, the stigma remains worldspread. Despite a massive amount of awareness about mental health issues, in India and developing countries, individuals and their families often hesitate to seek professional consultation. They might even fear discussing such matters with their close ones in fear of being stigmatised. So, what exactly is the stigma associated with mental health and why it must be overcome?

Stigma is the rejection, avoidance, or fear, people direct toward those they perceive as being ‘different’. Mental illness is quite common and many of us struggle with it without seeking help due to the fear of being labelled. Have you ever engaged with somebody expressing mental issues at any time? Or have you ever experienced it and wondered, “Am I mentally ill?”  If yes, you have an opportunity to help them recover for a healthy life.

So, when you happen to meet anybody suffering from mental health disorders, the way you treat and react to them should come from a place of empathy and not judgement. It is also important to understand that mental health disorders are caused by a variety of reasons – including biological reasons. Hence, attaching shame, blaming or stigmatising the family and individual could prevent them from seeking the treatment they need despite it being a real disorder.

  • The stigma associated with mental health issues can cause a range of problems that can aggravate the situation further such as:
  • You are in denial of the extent of dysfunction and discomfort the disorder may cause. You believe that you do not need professional help despite previous experiences which suggest otherwise. 
  • You may misappropriate any psychological condition or mental health disorders as being extremely aggressive or unstable moods, behaviour. 
  • You are afraid of society branding you as ‘crazy’.
  • Stigma leads to lesser opportunities for education, employment, and housing.
  • The stigma translates into fewer people seeking help and even fewer entering the profession leading to an exclusivity in the field. This increases the cost of mental health which are not covered by insurance.

 It can cause you to resign yourself to a life of living with mental illness.

Besides, the stigma associated with mental health often creates fear, mistrust, and anger in the minds of the public towards people living with/ recovered from mental illness and their families. This leads to social exclusion and rejection. As a result, the patient often lives in shame, suffers from low self-esteem, loneliness, and lack of opportunity.

Stigma must be tackled with effective and relevant strategies to help the patients lead healthy and happy lives. Here are some key ways to keep stigma at bay or effectively overcome it with the help of your family, and loved ones.

Seek treatmentMany people prioritise their social standing over their mental health and wellbeing. They keep trying to avoid seeking professional assistance in the fear of being labelled as a mental health patient. However, avoiding treatment is not going to be helpful in the long run; it will only aggravate the issues further. Seeking professional consultation can help in finding out what is wrong and addressing those aspects in a way that is suitable to the individual and is healthy. It also helps in reducing the symptoms and  dealing with it emotionally, mentally, physically and socially.

Don’t let stigma develop self-doubt and shameMany people perceive a mental illness to be a sign of personal weakness which can be controlled by exercising self-restraint. Reading up about your condition, talking to people who have similar types of conditions, will help you become more aware about your condition and not feel alone. However, it does not replace the need for treatment from a certified psychiatrist or counsellor.

Don’t isolate yourself – You might be hesitating to admit to others that you have a mental illness. Your friends, family, near and dear ones can offer support only if they know about your mental illness. You must reach out to people who you trust and respect for the compassion, support, and understanding you need to address the mental health issues you are encountering. Isolation and social withdrawal will only make your recovery more difficult.

Don’t equate yourself with your illness – You might have an illness but you are not the illness. You can say “I have bipolar disorder” instead of saying “I’m Bipolar”. Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.” Do not let your illness define who you are.

Join support groups – Support groups, groups consisting of people with similar types of mental illness be it depression, substance abuse, etc., help reduce stigma by educating people who have a mental illness, their families, and the general public. They also provide you with a safe space to talk where you are not alone and can learn from others suffering through something similar. A strong community will support you in the battle against your illness.

Speak out against stigma – Try to express your experiences, your opinions via social media, post pictures, write open letters, talk at events, set up a meetup. It can help instil courage in those facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness. 

A Matter of Human Rights

Individuals suffering from mental health challenges, professionals, healthcare allies have come forward to address the stigma associated with mental health both in India and overseas. Much of the ongoing global initiative to curb discrimination against mentally ill persons has its genesis in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or CRPD. The CRPD acknowledges that “discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person”. A group of experts also feels that more than legislation and legal measures, facilitating communication between general people and people with mental illness can help bridge the information gap and remove discrimination.

Dignity for Self

Among human rights activists and champions of human dignity, there is a growing concern about the threats to dignity for mental health disorders worldwide. Every day umpteen cases of abuse of mentally unwell persons come to light. Many of these abuses stem from ignorance and a large number of them are perpetrated in violation of all norms of human rights and civic society.

Every year on 10th October, the World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) attempts to draw people’s attention to the need of treating mentally ill patients with ‘dignity’. In a bid to address the issue, some institutions have taken up anti-discrimination training for professionals on mental illness and the personal experiences of people about the disease. Short duration anti-discrimination training course for students, teachers, doctors, etc., have also been launched on a trial basis.

The objective of such meetings is to ensure that people with mental health disorders do not blame themselves for having the disorder. It is to enable people with the disorder and mental health allies to reduce stigma and seek the necessary help they require. It is an attempt to educate the masses on treating fellow human beings with the dignity they deserve.  

Being a Mental Health Ally

Here’s how you can be a mental health ally.

Start with empathy: Individuals with mental health challenges need more empathy, trust, and understanding from their family members and loved ones. This will go a long way in boosting their self-esteem and evade personal and social biases.

Dignity Matters: Dignity is important to all, especially those suffering from mental health issues. They need to be treated well and their human rights must be protected efficiently.

Stay vigilant about mental health abuse

There have been umpteen reports of mentally ill persons being maltreated, discriminated against, stigmatised and marginalised. Such patients also often have to face physical and mental abuse at health facilities and at the hands of the community they live with. In the absence of qualified mental health experts and doctors, their suffering increases multifold. We need to work together to raise awareness and act against perpetrators of mental health abuse.

Awareness is Key: There are a multitude of misconceptions, beliefs, myths around mental health and several studies have reinstated the same. Due to this, those who are in the grip of a mental health issue are often hesitant to come out and admit their issues openly. Raising awareness is a robust way to drive away such misconceptions, and biases.

WHO has launched an awareness campaign to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights-oriented policy and law, training of health professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes, and public information campaigns. It is essential for us as allies to amplify these campaigns to make the world a better place for those struggling with their mental health.  

Why choose Cadabams?

Cadabams is widely trusted and recognized for its broad spectrum of mental health care facilities. We ensure that our patients are treated with attention, love, care, and concern. We offer an exclusive range of solutions and treatments based on the condition and issues faced by an individual.

Call us on our 24/7 helpline +91 96111 94949  to talk to a professional and to know more about our different treatment processes. .

Disclaimer – We strive to treat our patients with dignity and the utmost sensitivity. We understand that mental health illness is a disease and not a sign of weakness. The term mental health issue is used not in a derogatory fashion but to remain relevant to user search trends and common usage. In case you or a loved are struggling with dementia or you are caring for one, do share your unique viewpoint on how we can improve this content for our readers, please reach out to us at info@cadabams.org