Destigmatizing Mental Illness
The stigma of mental illness has long-lasting effects on both its sufferers and those that support them. Many advances have been made to recognize psychiatric disorders as medical problems largely outside the patient’s control. There is still much to do, however, to completely alleviate the isolation and discrimination they can cause. Negative stigmas have numerous effects; they cause a disinclination to seek treatment and make patients feel as if they must keep their struggles private. In their attempts to encase their disorders in secrecy, many patients wind up feeling isolated and become depressed. If those with mental illness begin to become their diagnoses it leads to self-doubt and shame.
Others’ judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on the facts.
—The Mayo Clinic
In recent years, it has become more acceptable to discuss mental illness, largely due to successful educational promotions and celebrity support. When mentally ill people of the general populace see others who have succeeded despite their diagnoses, it provides them with motivation and validation. With the awareness that there is no need to fight their personal battles in private and a blatant widespread approval to seek support, people with these disorders are better equipped to lead productive lives. Thanks to anti-bullying campaigns, people are much more aware of how younger patients are being treated at school and in their peer groups, and the tolerance for ridicule and derision is much lower than in years past. With the additional education provided regarding diagnoses such as bipolar disorder and depression, these illnesses are demystified and no longer seem as frightening to those unfamiliar with them.
Although progress has been made to destigmatize psychiatric disorders, it is important for us all to avoid complacency in the fight for equal treatment and rights for these patients. With each generation comes the opportunity for additional education concerning ways to be sensitive to the psychiatric population’s needs.
L.J. Kelley has completed her first young adult novel and has been published on Mash Stories while also volunteering as a peer editor for The Greenwich Village Literary Review. Check out her website at www.ljkelleyauthor.com and follow her on twitter at @LJKelley1