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  • Writer's picturePia Singh


Dr. Satyen Sharma

Sr. Consultant Psychiatrist | Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder

What image comes to your mind when someone mentions anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance use disorder? It is that crippling feeling of wanting to be loved or understood while feeling utterly perplexed and disoriented. While these moments of anguish are very debilitating, one needs to understand that it is completely normal and human to have these experiences. Your mental health, just like your physical health at times may face impairment in functioning and "It's ok to not be ok!"

One does not have to be physically bruised to have to prove that one is sick and needs some time alone or in the company of those who make you feel better. The theory of mental health and its utmost importance is as simple to understand as it gets, but the society we live in stigmatizes it as something to not be talked about or openly discussed. Because a psychological illness may be blamed as being a weakness in the person experiencing it and reflect poorly on their immediate family!

Stigma shows when someone with a mental illness is called 'dangerous', 'crazy' or 'incompetent' rather than unwell. People end up discriminating against other people who are facing mental health issues. Often trying to blend in their discrimination with insensitive and/or offensive humor.

If you ever catch yourself saying the following to someone you know is going through a tough time or is diagnosed with anxiety or depression then you need to check yourself. ‘’chal let me drop you off to the pagal khana in Agra’’ ‘’chill dude don’t overthink, it’s a phase’’. Neglect and ignorance can be damaging to a raw and wounded individual.

Stigma exists mainly because society fails to understand the gravity of the mental illness, and also because some people still harbor negative attitudes and beliefs towards it.

Media can also play a part in reinforcing a stigma by:

  1. portraying inaccurate stereotypes about people with a mental illness

  2. sensationalizing situations through unwarranted references to mental illness

  3. using demeaning or hostile language

For example, if a part of the media associates mental illness with violence that promotes the myth that all people with a mental illness are dangerous. In fact, research shows people with mental illness are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.

The American psychiatric association states that more than half of people who suffer from a mental illness seek professional help. They also say that stigma around mental illness especially an issue in some diverse racial and ethnic communities can be a major barrier to people from those cultures accessing mental health services.

For example, in some Asian cultures, seeking professional help for mental illness may be counter to the cultural values of a strong family, emotional restraint, and avoiding shame.

Stigma is not permanent, it occurs in temporary but hurtful patterns and can be fought with. Mental health activists, people who have suffered in the past, psychiatrists, medical professionals have been tirelessly working to de-stigmatize mental health and its negative perceptions that still exist in society.

The discourse around mental health is gaining momentum and it is time that we all jump on the bandwagon.

Tell me how you think you can contribute to ending/lowering the stigma around mental health in the comments :)

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