Stigma- Mental health
By: Farah Nadeem
Stigma- Mental health
There is quite a fair amount of misunderstanding about various mental health disorders. A common misunderstanding of the diagnosis ‘schizophrenia’ is thought of having multiple personalities, however, this is an outdated term and schizophrenia is no longer what is now referred to as Dissociative identity disorder (DID). There is a different severity of diagnosis, depression, for example, can be different from person to person, and the severity will be different. Autism disorder is a spectrum of various effects. Knowing that a person is autistic does not generally speak of their symptoms. Our own personal understanding of diagnosis should come after listening to a person sharing their experience. Perhaps we are trying to understand other people’s actions, emotions and reasons for doing certain things or trying to understand ourselves better. Even with in-depth personal knowledge it is tough clearly understand actions, emotions and reasoning.
People who have a diagnosis can already be under psychological stress and dealing with their own understanding of their diagnosis. But I wanted to be clear that a diagnosis is a tool for health professionals to help assess further health implications and to get the correct treatment. If we act negatively towards a person with a diagnosis that is considered a stigma. People who have gone to therapy or a doctor should be respected and admired. It should be encouraged to seek help and be curious about your own development, thoughts and actions. – As there is no reason to be ashamed over it. We as a society should not ostracise a person because they have a condition.
The mentioned misjudgements (and judgments in general) can worsen a person mental health’s problem, you might assume they are a danger to you, however, they are at more risk for themselves. And this added fear of society can delay them from getting help, and even create a space for people to avoid them. Interesting, diagnosed people often felt worse once they had realised the social aspect they will face.1
People who have been currently diagnosed can be under further psychological distress just from anticipating stigmatization. Stigmas mess with one’s own identity perspective even though you are the same person you were before the diagnosis. This can be lost sometimes when one is ‘labelled’ and feel like they are their label. The behaviour might change in response to their label, which might make them fail to pursue work or housing opportunities. Meeting certain goals can be tougher for a diagnosed person and even their performance can be limited. A reason why we should talk about it in a positive light is that stories of people with similar tributes can resolve issues regarding not meeting criteria and one owns limited capabilities. 2
Consider your own thoughts when you think about being ‘label’ with a disorder. Did you think positively? Negatively? Did you bring into your thoughts on how society or media views this disorder?
To conclude I want to add some ways we can help fight mental health stigma. Just to mention some few:
It is not the same as portraited in media
Going back to earlier in this article I touched upon how each individual experiences their diagnosis differently and this is important to think about. Some terms are umbrella terms which do not specify their severity or which symptoms individuals are affected by.
Don’t let negative stories of diagnosed people affect your judgment, we rarely hear any news about the good people do. For a negative portrait of someone with a diagnosis, there might be one or two great people with diagnosis never being portrayed.
Don’t let it be you and don’t judge yourself
You are the same person before you got the diagnosis and you will continue to develop and grow as a person. Currently, the public is tough to fight against, having you on your own side will help a lot. Assuming prejudices and stereotypes of yourself can lead to psychological distress which is not what you want. The time is to learn, control and continue the treatment to ensure this hardly becomes anything that affects your life.
Talk about and read about it
There are people who have a misunderstanding or misconception of any mental health issue. In this case, it is always possible to comment on it whether be it your personal experience or academic knowledge. Don’t be afraid to be curious – however, do respect someone’s wishes if they do not want to speak further on the subject.
One way to end our stigmatization of a diagnosis is to view our thoughts around it and reflect around it. For example, think: ‘what if I had this’, how would that affect you and what are the immediate thoughts. We can come a long way if we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
By Nicholai Randolf Martin
- Quinn, D. M., & Chaudoir, S. R. (2009). Living with a concealable stigmatized identity: the impact of anticipated stigma, centrality, salience, and cultural stigma on psychological distress and health. Journal of personality and social psychology, 97(4), 634.
- Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). The paradox of self‐stigma and mental illness. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9(1), 35-53.