My friend Davina over at Shades of Crimson commented on the stigma attached with depression and other mental health issues after reading the recent series on how to cope with long term depression. No time like the present to voice some concerns and thoughts on the stigma attached to mental health issues. This is a mini series in itself.
mental health is explored behind closed doors
It is often swept under the covers. People keep it private.
Family members, co-workers and friends aren’t sure how to react and are often counter supportive. Traditional perceptions of mental health issues are attached to sign of weakness in character. This is slowly changing. We know now there are biological reasons and triggers for depressions. Sometimes another disease, medical disorder or medication has created depression as a side effect.
It’s not easy for most people to understand why!
So instead they come up with solutions and comments like “buck it up” or “your a smart person, you can beat this” and so on are harmful. Subtle reactions and assumptions that you are dangerous and should be avoided do more harm than good. Negative judgements and harmful comments are often a part of what someone suffering (yep suffering and in pain) has to go through.
People avoid you, ignore your real needs, dismiss your concerns and expect you to get on with life in a regular fashion. It can lead to shame and low self-esteem or confidence. It certainly gets you angry and frustrated.
This heightens your depression.
end result of attaching a stigma to mental health
Here’s a few of the devastating results
- delay of treatment – this often makes recovery harder and longer. A negative impact on health with a potential for permanent damage. They pretend nothing is wrong and may avoid treatment all together because it shows weakness. They are ashamed to get help but without it recovery is unlikely..
- poor treatment – not just because health care and insurance may not cover treatment or limit treatment to basic provisions (the least of which should be medication).
- abuse – it comes in all forms but many people face discrimination, harassment, violence and rejection. They have a hard time finding work or housing. So called friends and peers reject them. This abuse amplifies the depression making it a virtually impossible cycle to break out of.
- isolation & exclusion – daily tasks and even every day tasks we take for granted become impossible to accomplish. The depressed person will slowly hide in a shell and wither away.
If you had cancer, a transplant, nerve disorder or wide selection of medical issues that attitude would be different. They would treat you with respect, concern and care. Those close to you would educate themselves and might even start to participate in active charity work for the specific disease or issue.
We have along way to come but…I think the treatment and acceptance is changing. People are speaking out. In the next article I will talk about what you can do to help change the stigma attached with mental health disorders.