The stigma attached to mental illness has been influenced by the media, crime, television dramas, and the people in our community that label anyone who isn’t ‘normal’, physically or mentally. These labels are an inaccurate, uneducated perceptions of people who suffer a disease, illness, or disability. the result causing discrimination, bullying, mistreatment, and exclusion, all culminating into a stigma that affects all aspects of society.
What was once a society built on racism and sexism we are now drenched in a stigma that represents the mentally ill as crazy, people we should exclude, and socially isolate, a society who choose not to support the vulnerable, and a society too scared to ask those close to them “R U OK?”, and if they are not implementing action to support. This stigma is so engrained that we don’t send get well cards to those who are mentally ill, we question sick leave, time off and other work arrangements that assist the mentally ill from managing a balance between work, and their mental health, we criticise and ridicule those who have sadly died or attempted suicide due to their mental illness, and we openly exclude and isolate because its easier not to get involved. We are a society who walks away from family and friends because we see the mentally ill as the ‘Black Sheep’ and its easier to run than to stop, listen, understand, and actively support.
We are neither crazy nor contagious, we are sick, mentally ill!
While organisations like BeyondBlue, R U OK?, Sane Australia, and Headspace are actively working to breakdown the stigma attached to mental illness, there is still a long way to go before society does not label us, workplaces don’t discriminate, and our family, friends, and colleagues don’t exclude and isolate us.
Nobody with a mental illness should be embarrassed, ashamed, or scared to openly talk about their illness. We are no different to the lady with cancer, the man with heart disease, the woman in the wheelchair, or the child with a learning disability. We shouldn’t be labelled as crazy, a criminal, a psycho, or anything else that unfairly associates the mentally ill with what we are not.
We are mentally ill, not a blemish on society who should be treated so differently.
In the coming weeks I will explore stigma attached to depression further, and discuss the mechanism by which each of us as individuals can contribute to breaking down the stigma and discrimination that those with depression face daily.