In my part of the world, we often hear people saying therapy and counseling are for the weak ones. Also, mental health has just been a vague term which people hardly try to understand. Though the educated new generation is more inclined towards mental health and counseling, these are still strongly stigmatized in the uneducated and older age groups. With this, seeking professional help is the same as admitting that you are a psycho crackhead.
From my recent talks with few professional counselors, I realized that; there is a deep-rooted problem with the whole thing. Also, one of them admitted that it still needs 5 to 10 years down the road to fully normalizing mental health and counseling in our society. With this comes a responsibility to us youths to speak out against the social stigma. This article tries to sum up the cause of this issue and the action that we could take towards it.
Why is there still a stigma regarding mental health?
The core reason behind the misconceptions regarding mental health issues in our society turns out to be the lack of education and awareness. It later forms layers that add up to the already bulked-up problem. Mostly the stigma usually comes from the people who have little or no knowledge on this particular matter. Listed below are the three main pillars that have contributed to the stigmatization. Also, all these pillars are interconnected and influence each other.
- Lack of general awareness and education
Despite many awareness campaigns, there still remains a large portion of the population untouched. Especially for the people from rural areas, this remains a new concept. With time people internalize their false beliefs, which plays a major role in the stigmatization.
- Misconceptions leading to negative attitude
The misconception in people results from a lack of awareness, which further leads to a negative attitude towards the issue. This pileup and contribute to the stigmatization.
- Lack of media potrayals on mental health
In this digital age, people easily get influenced by the things on the internet. While in past days a lot of media production, filmmakers, mental health activist, and social media influencers had brought this issue onboard, there still seems lack of engagement on it. Also, to change a whole internalized stigma concept, a single-day act does not seems to be enough. So, it’s clear that we also lack to provide constant support to the media portrayals.
How can we bring the change?
We can take many small and solid steps to bring the change we want to see. For this case, listed below are some of the things that we could do.
- Start the conversation
Many times when these conversations rise, we get a good stare for a moment. The whole concept of mental health has been buried so deep in some part of our society that it still takes many people to dig it back. That’s why we need to do it more often. Be it on social media like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or in-person and community.
- Recognizing it in a personal level
No matter what change we intend to bring into society, it must first come from within us. For me, recognizing mental health issues as a health problem and not a person as a whole brought some light. But in society, most people get labeled for their mental health issues. A person with depression is seen as a depressive person rather than a ‘person with depression. Here we are trying to define the person as their illness. But the truth is that we are so much more than our illness: be it physical or mental.
- Increase the level of public awareness
Public awareness is the key to fight the stigma as the lack of knowledge is the root cause. Be it through a social media campaign or a community campaign: this can bring change. It is also where the news and media industry come into play.
We cannot deny the fact that there is an enormous misconception regarding mental health in our society. But, if we unite and take action, we can bring the change we want to see. So let us all take the small steps to normalize mental health.