The fight against stigma……

WARNING: Some of the contents of this post people may find upsetting and confronting, if you need assistance and you are upset, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 (Australia)

Stigma is the inaccurate and sensationalised reporting or portrayal of people with a mental illness affecting people through discriminatory behavior. Also contributing to self-stigma, stress, and delayed treatment stigma causes enormous pain and suffering to those with a mental illness.

I admit that I am on a bit of a rant! It all started last night when I was reading my Facebook newsfeed and saw a poster displayed on an anti-bullying site that I am a fan of, which I will no longer be a fan of. For one the poster had nothing to do with bullying and secondly the poster stated a number of references about anti-depressants and their link to violence by the mentally ill, which has ignited by my anger. In its wisdom the author of this poster chose to include references for these so called facts, the word ‘references’ that I use with extreme trepidation. In disgust I sent a comment off to the fan page stating that the poster not only contributed to increasing stigma against the mentally ill but was completely inappropriate. To which I received a comment back from the fan pages author saying that they believed that the poster increased awareness. Awareness to what they didn’t say and in my mind there is no awareness but a concern!

The researcher in me kicked into action determined to illustrate to this fan page that this poster was neither factual nor illustrating anything positive to the community about the mentally ill. After looking up the references stated on the poster I found that the quotes were from a ‘mental health watchdog’ that is against the prescribing of anti-depressants, not who the author of this poster claims these facts came from, instead of a reputable reference such as a medical journal or from a website from organisations specialising in mental illness. While this mental health watchdog claims to be referring to research that has reviewed a number of journal articles on the affects of anti-depressants they don’t reference the actual report or authors of these ‘so called’ studies.
My concerns with the poster start with only mentioning the ‘very rare’ side affects of ‘some’ anti-depressants mainly that of violence, homicidal ideation, and thoughts of suicide and because of this some of these drugs have been removed from being prescribed. I am not disputing that some rare side affects can be violence and suicidal ideations but what the watchdog doesn’t mention is that some anti-depressants have been found to have these affects in a very, very small percentage of the population. To widely claim that anti-depressants are attributed to very severe cases of violence is plainly inappropriate and in the cases they are referring to unsubstantiated!

My second concern is attributing the cause of mass shootings in schools in the United States to those either on or withdrawing from psychotic drugs. Again I looked up the source of this ‘fact’ and found that this mental health watchdog displays a list of school mass shootings on their website and goes on to say that each shooting was the result of a connection to medication. In its wisdom this so called watchdog fails to provide sources of these so called ‘facts’, which is probably media articles which a reputable for over sensationalising the circumstances that occur in a variety of different events.

My third concern is the mention of clinical trials that supposable found that psychiatric drugs increased suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior by 80% and increased agitation and hostility by 130%, again this ‘fact’ is from this mental health watchdog, without clear reference to the source of this so called ‘fact’.

The last thing this poster highlights is that nutritional therapy can be used to effectively treat mental disorders, while this may be true and its important to maintain a healthy diet the other connotations illustrated on this poster is not only detrimental to the health of those with a mental illness by highlighting these statements but is rebuilding the stigma attached to mental illness that so many organisations have started to eliminate.

Finally based on the sources of these inaccurate statements by a so called ‘mental health watchdog’ that through its website has a clear agenda against SSRI’s (psychiatric/anti-depressant drugs) is very disappointing and for those vulnerable from their mental illnesses who may read this poster or come across this website referenced I hope that it is not at the detriment of their mental health.

I am the first one to go out of my way to raise awareness of mental illness and to decrease stigma attached to these, I am also an advocate against bullying and that is why I was a fan of this page. However, when facts are displayed on these fan pages or on websites that are not based on reputable references and there is a risk to the health of those with a mental illness I then have a big problem! There are many organisations working very hard to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and the consequences that stigma has on individuals living with a mental illness only to have their work affected by people who think they know what they are talking about and who have a clear agenda of their own that in this case places those with a mental illness at high risk if they were to think that what they are saying is true. Those with mental illness are vulnerable enough they don’t need so called watchdogs filling their heads with information that is biased to support their agenda, which isn’t the health and safety of those with a mental illness!

Okay, rant over!

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