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Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Mental health not only gives us the ability to cope with daily challenges, but also nurtures our inner strength and emotional wellbeing. However, it is widely misunderstood, and unfortunately, ignorance can lead to various misconceptions among individuals. Despite the importance of mental health, it is seen that mental health is neglected. The stigmatization of mental health is still an important societal problem.

Physical health is taken seriously, while mental illnesses continue to be treated with great prejudice. This causes people to avoid discussing it. They may often feel humiliated, embarrassed, or afraid of being judged. It can also lead to a lack of understanding among family and friends about what the individual is going through. This gradually affects relationships and their work productivity. Further, they do not seek treatment and live unfulfilled lives while suffering in silence. They often judge themselves into believing they aren’t worthy or enough.

Lack of knowledge and understanding, negative attitudes, and unfriendly or discriminating behaviour are all factors that contribute to mental health stigma. To confront and remove them, we must need to understand how it develops.

People often believe that the ones with mental health disorders can’t get along with others. Lack of awareness about such situations leads some people to believe individuals who need unique care cannot get along with others. You may not know that people who you are close to may be struggling on the inside. They tend to put a smile on their face and pretend to be alright.

Additionally, some believe people with mental health issues can be violent and unpredictable. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and might not even realize it. Many such people are highly active and productive members of our communities. They are not “crazy” or “psycho”. That is a broad and offensive term portrayed in the media. Mental health could take a toll on anyone as it did during the pandemic.

This leads to discrimination. Often, they are not offered a job or accommodation because of a disclosure of a mental health condition. In addition, this causes a lack of participation in social activities

How can we step up and break these stigmas?

Mental health should be openly discussed.

Educate yourself and others. If you hear a disrespectful remark regarding mental illness, softly intervene and explain what's wrong because we need to stop this as it only contributes to the stigma. Furthermore, it could also give courage to others facing similar challenges.

Encourage equality between physical and mental health.

When people realise that it is a serious concern, and is as severe as physical illness, they are more hesitant to make comments. Kindness and self-compassion are essential in the healing process

Show compassion for those who are suffering.

A simple act of affection can brighten someone's day. Whether it is a hug or a listening ear, kindness and empathy are important qualities to have. Remember that the way you act and treat others might have an impact on how people see you and mental health in general.

Stop using demeaning language.

Do not portray inaccurate stereotypes about people with mental illnesses. Make sure you aren’t triggering or offending anyone while talking about it. Avoid using harmful and insensitive words, as well as words that characterise a person based on their circumstances. Words cut deeper than a knife, so choose accordingly.

In the process of healing, be gentle to yourself and others. There is nothing to be embarrassed by or ashamed of. Acceptance is a challenging process that takes time. It's important to remember to take care of yourself throughout this time. You're not alone in this and you don't have to fight this battle on your own. Talk to your loved ones about it and check on them as well. The right ones will always support you and help you grow. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Self-compassion and self-care are gifts we all need to unwrap on regularly.

Written By - Mahi Jakhete

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