stigma of mental health

there’s so much stigma about mental health. the minute you say that you have mental health issues you create this tension in the air that both u and the witness of your revelation will try to fill with things that are ‘less heavy’, therefore more acceptable. people don’t know how to react to situations that involve mental health problems. people don’t know what to do with their own psychological problems and psychological problems of others. it threatens us. everyone must be normal. but why normal?!

in my experience i’ve learnt to be normal because there was no other option. everyone in my immediate family has been subjected to abuse. everyone has major psychological issues. but nobody talks about it. everyone ignores the problems. everyone pretends there are no causes to these problems. no matter how much you try to repress emotions they will always surface. it’s like sweeping rubbish under your carpet. so when problems do surface everyone in my family tries hard to pretend that it’s just a ‘one off’. so emotional ‘coming outs’ are followed by massive feeling of shame, and as a result a never-ending state of self-hate. and the cycle of emotional dysfunction continues.

how am i different? i’m not. i’m simply aware of all these mechanisms, but there’s barely anything i can do about it. i hate my weakness. i perceive myself as a crippled person because of psychological issues i have. and because i see myself as a crippled person i think that i don’t deserve love and nobody will ever accept me the way i am. the cycle of emotional dysfunction continues.

i’ve tried to break the cycle. i came out to my last girl-friend as ‘mental’. what did it do? nothing good. as it often happens she could mentally relate to my problems as she had a troubled childhood herself. but in stead of supporting my recovery from the post traumatic stress disorder she made it more traumatic. she blamed me for her anger management problems. she blamed me for her insecure manipulative tendencies. everything that was wrong with her was my fault. my ‘label’ of having mental heath issues allowed her to do all these things. my ‘abnormality’ gave her space to blame me for absolutely everything that was wrong in our relationship. EVERYTHING was my fault.

my partner before that just chose to ignore my psychological problems. i found a councillor for myself, who explained to me that i suffer from depression and there’s no point in pretending that it’s not there. i told my partner but she just ignored it. i’m guessing she simply didn’t know what to do…later on when our relationship was falling apart in the state of anger she declared that my ‘depression is just an excuse for being selfish’. and that was that. once again it was proven to me that i’m a damaged good. people are mortified of ‘abnormal’ things so often they deal with mental health issues of others (or their own) in most destructive ways.

when my sister in law killed herself 2 years ago the reaction of my mother was astonishing. she just said that my brother is so unlucky to have a wife from such a dysfunctional family. i was shocked. if anyone it’s my brother who comes from a very dysfunctional family….he was severely abused as a child. i remember quite vividly how he screamed when my father was beating him up….and my mother didn’t do ANYTHING about it….anyway, she then proceeded with the statement that my sister-in-law was so messed up because she was lazy. she was unemployed for 2 years, didn’t have a husband or kids…and in my mother’s opinion this made her very selfish. she then killed herself. out of selfishness.

people are scared of mental health problems. today, still, it’s a taboo topic. people joke about it. people try to minimise the seriousness of the issue….because they can not deal with it. most importantly, they can’t deal with their own ‘baggage’. so everyone plays ‘normal’. people are so scared of being ‘abnormal’ that they’d do anything to preserve their status of normality. it creates more denial, more blaming…and even more psychological problems.

if more people started to recognise that mental health problems are not ghosts and also not scary beasts more people would start facing these problems. the fear of being judged makes us ashamed and embarrassed of our own psychological issues. we then judge, blame and label. at the end of the day we are all just human. unhappiness is human. but it doesn’t mean it’s bad. unhappiness is like a signal in a car that shows that something is not functioning properly. you can then either ignore it and end up or in a car crash or you can mend these malfunctions. you can go to the doctor and get help. and the earlier you do it the better. some problems require minor treatment, others might be life-threatening conditions. but no matter what the psychological problem is it requires attention. reducing stigma associated with mental health can help people seek help. and most importantly it can help them overcome their issues. all they need to do is acknowledge that there is an issue – that’s the first most important step one must make. and it’s the fear of being labeled that stops so many people from doing it. in stead they put their own life and lives of others in danger. and the cycle of emotional dysfunction continues.

psychological issues multiply like germs if they are not treated as an illness. illness is not a mortal sin. it’s not something to be ashamed of. just like physical illness it can restrict your life in some way, but if treated properly you can get better. there’s no point in walking on a broken leg. it won’t heal that way and you will only cause yourself more damage. same with psychological issues, when you look at them and start treating them as an illness you find ways of coping. and when you receive a relevant course of treatment you chances of getting better increase. and your overall satisfaction with life also increases. when more people understand this concept we will have a happier healthier society. until then we will carry on preserving the bubble of ‘normality’ and breeding judgemental attitudes, which at the end of the day are harmful to our own vulnerable selves.

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