BREAK THE STEREOTYPES Let Mental health patients breathe!
Health conditions characterized by dysfunction in cognition, emotions and behaviour due to disturbances in physiological functioning or developmental issues, are commonly observed in these patients. These dysfunctions are different from the conventional social, physical and cultural orientation of an individual and then it starts to be seen as a mental health disorder.
As of today a record 150 million people in India suffer from one of the many types of mental disorder and yet its considered to be a taboo. If one faces psychological problems, they refrain from speaking about it as the fear of “log kya kahege?” (what will people say?) and of being ridiculed prevents them for speaking out. If they do pluck up the courage to open up, society often gives them advice to just get over it, or in most cases take them to a local quack. Nowadays people with mental health issues are ashamed to come forward or seek help because the fear that they will be branded “pagal” (mad, crazy) and won’t be taken seriously.
The negative attitude coupled with lack of awareness towards mental health issues have reinforced these social stigmas and stereotypes. Instead of treating such issues as illness that can be cured with treatment, we treat the patients like pariahs. At its core, the notion of stigma essentially includes three main concepts that is prejudicial attitudes, insufficient knowledge and discriminatory behaviour. In light of these perceived stigmas and biases, it’s observed that people suffering from mental instability are faced with demoralization, lack of confidence, self withdrawal which leads to low self-esteem, social withdrawal and poor quality of life.
According to a survey which was conducted by the Indian journal of Psychiatry in 2018 on the perception of mental disorders and the patients in India, it was noted that the answers to six out of twelve scenarios given in the questionnaire, suggested a strong negative view of participants towards the people suffering from mental illness. It was seen that most people consider a mental hospital admittance as a sign of personal failure, people are unwilling to hire former mentally ill patients as nannies or in day cares and other employers also favour candidates who have never been treated for a mental disorder, most people demean former patients who have been hospitalized in the past, most young women were reluctant to be in a relationship with a person who had been hospitalized for a severe mental disorder moreover most people would not take the opinion of a person who have had a history of mental illness.
In order to overcome these barriers that we as a society have created and repeatedly reinforced, we as a society need to work together to change the general perception. The direction of this change should be to give these people equal say and opportunity and to make their lives more equitable. We all have to start taking small steps towards this.
1. Segregate disorder from the individual
Mental illness like any other common disease does not define who the person actually is. In most cases these disorders are caused by neurological impairments, genetics, neurotransmitters and prenatal problems. Mental health disorders can be managed to maximize the potential and make sure they can carry out a healthy positive life. To make sure that these disorders don’t ruin their, we should refrain from using phrases like- he is autistic, he is schizophrenic, etc.
These stigmas are prevalent till date due to lack of education. It is very important to learn about mental health issues and disorders. Educating ourselves and the society about these problems will help in shunning these myths and misconceptions and to acknowledge the actual facts about mental health and well-being.
A person who has not suffered from these disorders or seen a close one go through it, should always try to be emphatic and altruistic. Trying to understand their problems and worldview, could shine a light on how simple tasks can be so demanding for them. When society will be able to see through their eyes, it will be easy to understand their perceptive.
Mentally ill people are treated as outcasts and they are not encouraged to participate in society. They are refused basic services like education, job opportunities etc. People tend not to invite them to the functions and even the household prefers to keep them out of social gatherings. Denying chances from the start makes it impossible for them to lead a fully happy and healthy life.
5. Relationship between Mental illnesses and physical illnesses
It is very important to understand that both psychological and physiological illnesses are essentially the same thing. A person is not judged when they visit a doctor for chest pain similarly, they should not be ridiculed for mental disorders as well.
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