We know the emergence of mental health awareness. We hear about the importance of mental health awareness. We see people fighting for mental health awareness.
But where are we still seeing, hearing or spreading negative stigma about mental health?
“Stop acting crazy!”
“Kenapa? Awak gila ke?”
It’s definitely not foreign to any of us to come across with one, if not, all of the above statements. We live in the system where calling people crazy is a common act and more often than not, it is casually used as a joke.
Undeniably, people with mental health conditions (previously known as mental illnesses) were once being deemed as crazy, lunatic, abnormal, and any other words you can think of.
To make it a lot harder to be easily accepted by our current society, the media isn’t actually helping much, despite much claims of wanting to eradicate these stigmas.
Mental health conditions don’t necessarily make us violent.
Portrayal of individuals with such conditions on media as being violent, and dangerous isn’t going to make the public understanding mental health conditions with compassion. No, it makes the public to be afraid of these individuals. We have the idea that they will do violent acts just because they are stressed up. I’m sorry, that is not the case. People who are violent DO NOT necessary have mental health conditions. It may be a possible contributing factor, but it is not the only one.
Mental health conditions are not being truly understood.
It is a whole lot worse when criminals with violent behaviors are who ‘magically’ and ‘retrospectively’ being diagnosed with mental health conditions. This again isn’t going to help the public to be more accepting. It only makes the public to fall back to their confirmation bias of “see, I told you so”; these people are crazy, that’s why they conduct violent acts. As humans, we have the tendency to want to find out why things happen. So when we see people who conduct crimes, typically those which are horrendous and bizarre, mental health is always the easiest answer.
Mental health conditions are not a topic of casual conversation.
With all these lack of understanding, people tend to trivialize and use mental health conditions lightly, which we can see on social media in abundance. Here are some of the examples:
“I’m a perfectionist, HAHA I’m so OCD.”
“I’m so bored, I should just kill myself.”
“His children are so active, they must be ADHD.”
“Girls are so bipolar, their mood swings are disastrous.”
“She’s doing all of these to get attention.”
“Why don’t you just die, since you have been saying it for so long?”
And the list goes on. As casual and ‘non-harmful’ as it may sound, all these sentences have grave impact on those who actually suffer from these conditions. It makes a mist of illusion that mental health conditions are not actually as serious as they should be. It is already hard enough for people with such conditions to go through with their lives on top of their difficulties, a lack of support from their environment is not going to make things better.
“According to the 2015 National Health Morbidity Survey, 29% of the Malaysian population as a whole suffered from depression and anxiety disorder, and mental illness is expected to be the second biggest health issue affecting Malaysians after heart disease by 2020.” – The Star
“A study released by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in December 2018 found that young adults are most at risk of suffering from mental disorders in Singapore. Those aged between 18 and 34 are more likely to have experienced bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder.” – Channel News Asia
And these are just the tip of an iceberg. Mental health conditions are never just “attention-seeking”. These conditions can cause various degree of disturbances to one’s perception, thinking, and behavior. More often than not, these disturbances affect more than one settings of one’s life and it could be in their academic performance, work performance, social and romantic relationships as well as their own daily functioning. One may even have trouble coping with basic daily routines and sometimes it could even be as simple as getting out of the house.
Media is a double-edged sword. As much as it creates confusion for hits and views, it can also be our best hope for wiping out these negatives stigmas wrapped around mental health due to its power to influence and educate public opinion.
We can help combat mental health stigma by being empathetic to those who suffer from such conditions. The way we speak to them and the way we speak about mental health; all of these are within our control. Are we truly helping by saying what we are saying? Or are we saying that out of our on amusement?
We can also help fight against these stigmas by sharing our personal experience with mental health conditions (if any), helping people with such conditions to re-integrate to the society by providing job offers that do not discriminate people based on their conditions, or even debunking false information on mental health.
Mental health condition does not affect on an individual level; it affects the entire system and that affects you and me.
Mental health condition does not discriminate based on our age, race, status, or even background.
We all have mental health, and it is high time to place its importance as much as we focus on our physical health.
It is also time to show respect, and understanding to those who have mental health conditions.
Contributed by Ivan Lee
Repost with permission from Your Ears and Heart, YEAH