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Stigma has harmed our mental health — here’s how

Photo by Yoel Peterson on Unsplash

Stigma is the stereotypical impression or label the society imposed to certain groups of people due to their identity. When a group is stigmatized, one usually amplify the group’s negative side, making the group a disadvantaged group in the society. In our society nowadays, our understanding towards mental illness is still relatively inadequate. With the often prejudiced work from the media, we may perceive the mentally ill as violent, incapable or unsteady. In fact, stigmatization comes in different forms. It could be serious discrimination in terms of behavior or even the exploitation of rights.

Stigmatization does not only affect how the society treats the mentally ill, most importantly, it creates misallocation of resources, which in the long run may cause mental health disparity. In this post, we would discuss on the difficulties faced by the mentally ill due to stigmatization.

  1. Isolation by the community.

The mentally ill are often reluctant to reveal their past — even if they have to, it is usually under embarrassing circumstances due to the fear of negative judgments received. Usually, when they really plucked up the courage to tell their stories, for most of the time they are misunderstood or ignored. The reaction of the people around has actually formed a sort of isolation. In Hong Kong, more than 50% of the interviewees claimed that they would not want to live in the same community as the mentally ill — revealing the low level of acceptance in our society. Due to the misunderstanding or even isolation from coworkers, colleagues, or even family, they might lose their interest in socializing. It makes them even more depressed and stressed.

2. Difficulty seeking for jobs or study opportunities.

In Hong Kong, out of 294 interviewees, nearly 50% of them felt being discriminated by employer or fellow coworkers. Another research shows that nearly 70% of the participants believe that we should not integrate the education between children with and without mental illness. The evidence illustrates the amount of difficulties persons in recovery face in work or study. There is truly a long way to go before we achieve mental health equality.

3. Difficulty seeking for help

You might be surprised — medical professionals could be the major contributors of stigmatisation. Overseas research have revealed that more than one-fourth of persons in recovery’s experience of being stigmatized come from their service providers. In Hong Kong, out of around 300 interviewees, more than half of them have been considered a child and treated in a rude manner when seeking mental health service. 30% of the interviewees pointed out that service providers have joked about their illness. Another study in 2006 found out that nearly 50% of the persons in recovery have unpleasant in-patient experience, including the lack of explanation on the side effects of drugs and unnecessary physical restraint.

4. Delay of treatment

Different mental health patients seek for help only when crisis arises due to their mental health situation. In Hong Kong, only 26% of the mentally ill seek for professional guidance. This is due to the stigmatization of mental illness. We are afraid that once diagnosed, we would be distanced, considered as abnormal, or even discriminated. Different overseas studies have revealed that stigmatisation has posed negative impact towards the process of treatment. Living in the era when the mentally ill is being stigmatized, we should refrain from allowing the situation to worsen due to our ignorance. We should learn to treat the mentally ill with acceptance and rationality based on objective facts. In the end, we are all humans that are entitled to a fulfilling and meaningful life.