Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Lets talk about mental health #4: Social Stigma

Hi everyone!

I'm now into my second week of university and I'm still really enjoying myself. My seminars/ lectures started this week and I've enjoyed getting back into a routine.

I'm still carrying on my "Lets talk about mental health" series, this time Beth is talking about mental health and social stigma.

Lets talk about mental health #4: Social Stigma

For this post, I interviewed the lovely Beth.  Beth runs her own blog as well (which you should all read!) and she does brilliant job of talking about mental health on there!

Here are Beth's answers to the questions I asked her:

Do you think there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health?

I do! I think that stigma regarding things like anxiety and depression is reducing as we are becoming more comfortable about opening up and talking about these kinds of mental health issues, but I know it's still there and is much worse with other disorders too.

Why do you think there is stigma surrounding mental health?

People are scared of things they don't understand. When they think of mental health issues, they think of the stories of "psychopaths" going on killing rampages. There isn't enough education on mental illness; some people suffering don't even know what's going on! If we were able to fully and openly talk about the issues we're facing, other people would learn more and hopefully be more understanding. There's a misunderstanding about how common things like anxiety and depression are which also leads to a stigma about people "doing it for attention". I think the reality of differences within mental health is an afterthought for people; I've watched my own family members laugh and mock a woman on one of those "Obsessive Cleaners" shows for bleaching her floor twice a day and pointed out that she is probably suffering from compulsions she wishes she didn't have. They didn't ever consider it from that perspective.

*Photo from Google Images*

Do you believe mental health problems are stereotyped?

Yes I do! People think that you can't be depressed if you're not lying in bed crying, that you can't have anxiety if you're able to work in customer facing roles. There's all these stipulations people expect you to meet which can make the problem even worse. I went to counselling to talk about my anxiety and because it manifests in some ways that are unique to me, I convinced myself that the counsellor would think I was making things up for attention. There's also the fact that things like anxiety are stereotyped as a 'trend' for teenage girls to get attention and pity online, or that self harm is for 'goths'. It's really damaging.

What do you think are the most common stereotypes of mental health, why?

That if you suffer from a mental illness you are violent and dangerous, either to yourself or others - the media feeds us this idea by splashing stories about criminals over the front page and highlighting mental conditions.
That because you struggle with some aspects of life you are overall incompetent.
That you can snap yourself out of it with fresh air and exercise - while I do think both these things give a mood boost there's no way they can fix every problem.
People would never blame a physically ill person for their illness, but think it's acceptable to tell mentally ill people that it's their fault, or they can fix it themselves. I think this again is to do with a lack of education, and a fear of difference. There's still a lot of shame around mental illness, and people don't want to get too deep into conversations about it, so they can't really learn what it's like.

If any of you would like to take part, please let me know!

Do you believe there is still stigma surrounding mental health?

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