Our society is run by the traditional norms and values which have been fostered in all our minds since the tender stage of childhood. We have great veneration for our societal customs, values, and norms. But those existing prejudices can make us doubt ourselves without a qualm or second thought, while simultaneously sparking a problem of doing what is socially and ethically acceptable in the society. Not being able to be who we really are, feel what we actually want to and do what we feel is right makes me ponder: how far are we all straying away from an ideal, inclusive society?
Stigmas and prejudices exist due to lots of factors. We tend to agree with people, even when we are unwilling to do so, just because we all--at some point in our lives--want and need the validation of the people surrounding us.
Today, I would like to elaborate on a well-known, yet little touched upon, stigma and dilemma regarding mental health.
‘Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being’. It therefore affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps to determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of our lives, be it childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
Stigmas related to mental health issues can have consequences which may not even be comprehended. When we think of a person who is trying to do well in life, despite all the atrocities, hurdles and difficulties faced, as somewhat ‘different’ in an obviously negative way, we make them question themselves. We make them feel shameful for reaching out and seeking help.
Stigma happens when you define someone by their illness rather than who they are as an individual. I was going through an article wherein I read that it is very common to hear a person seeking help and having therapies labelled as ‘psychotic’, rather than ‘a person experiencing psychosis’.
As human beings first and foremost, it is our moral duty to help and accept each other the way we are--to plant the sapling of love, compassion, and harmony and to let the flowers of empathy bloom. Everyone has a role to play in making our society a better place. We all should live in one that is inclusive and rejects the ideas of discrimination and stratification.
Here’s how you can help break the stigma and fight the structured prejudice-related discrimination:
1. Do not believe everything you hear - try not to believe everything that you hear. Don’t let the ignorance of people change how you think or feel about anything, or yourself. Mental health is not and will never be a sign of weakness, and it is something which you don't have to recover or heal from on your own.
2. Do not let the opinion of others affect you; it's not personal - when you see people talking about others’ issues, do you think they are completely aware of what they’re talking about? Of course not! Their opinions about you, or anyone else, are not personal. They don’t know the situation and they don’t know you. Only you know what and who you are.
3. Do not hide away/let them hide away - many people facing issues related to mental health try to hide away and stay in isolation because they think this helps them cope with the stress, but that’s a myth! Time with yourself can be alright for a little bit, but not too long. Talking to a loved one helps! Opening up to your therapist helps!
4. Get the mental health treatment you require - Try not to let the label and stigma of being mentally ill hinder your way to recovery.
As it was rightly said by Glenn Close, “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversations”. Everyone goes through tough times, no matter what the problem is. The key is talking about how you feel and accepting yourself the way you are! If, at any point in time, you catch yourself puzzled and not knowing what to do, you can always seek help. Stay positive and know your worth!
Also read: Broken But Whole by Sheha Saha
Vatsala Sinha is a senior secondary student, currently studying humanities. She is also a psychology, art, and literature enthusiast! She draws from her personal experiences when writing about the need for mental health awareness.
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