Mental health Stigma
Despite the increasing publicity surrounding mental health and mental health issues, there is still a lack of understanding about mental health in general. For example, a research survey published by the government entitled “Attitudes to Mental Illness 2007” reported that 63% of those surveyed described someone with a mental illness as suffering from schizophrenia, and more than half believed that people with mental illness belong in a psychiatric ward or hospital. Overall, the results showed that positive attitudes toward people with mental health issues have actually declined since 1994, which is worrying indeed.
Amazingly, many people still don’t understand that mental health problems affect most of us in one way or another, whether we ourselves suffer from a mental illness or not. If we consider that a quarter of the population suffers from some kind of mental health problem at some point, chances are that even if we don’t have a mental illness personally, we know someone around us who does, so it’s our responsibility to understand what mental illness is and what can be done about it.
Many people with mental health problems will often feel isolated, rejected and too afraid to share their problems with others, purely because of the way they might be seen. This lack of understanding means they are less likely to get the kind of help and support they need and are at risk of slipping further into depression and mental illness. People need to understand that mental illness does not have to be an obstacle to a better quality of life, that help is available, and that most people with mental health problems can regain full control of their lives if they get the support they need.
A new guide to mental health
The Royal College of Psychiatrists released a new mental health guide, published in November 2007, which aims to educate the general public about what mental illness is and is a big step towards tackling the stigma that remains. It is always based on mental illness.
The guide is written in an easy-to-understand format, and over 60 mental health experts contributed to it. The Mind: A User’s Guide contains chapters that cover a whole range of mental illnesses and includes a section on how the brain works, how mental illness is diagnosed, and how to manage it.
A Scottish study
In Scotland, A National Survey Of Public Attitudes To Mental Health Well, what do you think? (2006) was published in September 2007 and emphasised that although people in socially disadvantaged areas have a higher incidence of mental health issues, the level of stigma is still not lower than in other areas. This suggests that confronting mental illness is not enough to change attitudes towards it.
There are also gender differences. According to the Scottish study, men with mental health problems were more likely to be treated with suspicion than women and were also more likely to avoid social contact with someone else with a mental health problem. Even among those who displayed a positive attitude toward people with mental health problems, many said they would be reluctant to tell anyone if they had a mental health problem of their own. Health.
A CIPD Survey
A recent survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and KPMG consultants surveyed more than 600 employers and reported that doctors are not doing enough to help people with mental health problems return to work, costing the business world billions of pounds. For example, only 3% of the participants rated the doctor’s support as “very good.”
Doctors may not really know what to offer someone who suffers from depression and anxiety other than drugs and free time. Even more concerning was the fact that 52% of employers maintained that they had never hired anyone with a history of mental illness, which perpetuates the stigma. On a more positive note, of those who did hire someone with a mental health problem, more than half said the experience had been “positive.”
Much is being done by governments and organisations to try to change public attitudes towards mental health, but is it enough? Until we all recognise that mental illness doesn’t discriminate and can affect any of us at any time, regardless of our age, gender, or social background, the stigma associated with mental illness will likely remain.
Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect any of us at any time, regardless of our age, gender, or social background, and yet the stigma associated with mental illness still exists. While a number of government initiatives, awareness campaigns, and organisations are specifically designed to tackle mental health stigma and change our attitudes towards mental health in general, there is still a long way to go.
It is therefore up to each of us as individuals to ensure that we are well informed and understand the issues involved, because only when the public is fully aware of the facts will stigmatisation of mental health be a thing of the past.