Mental Health Conditions are common affecting 1 in 6 workers in the UK. Despite this, negative attitudes relating to mental health still exist. Thousands of people experience negative treatment across many areas of their life. From work colleagues, medical professionals, media, family and friends, and society in general.
Why do many still treat mental health as if it’s not important? Why do we respond with comments such as; ‘that happened years ago’ and ‘you are thinking too much’ and why do we believe that people who access support are weak? The Mental Health Foundation point out that nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say stigma and discrimination have a negative impact on their lives. We can all play our part in increasing awareness about which preventive mental health interventions play a part, and events like World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for organisations to do that collectively.
No one should ever have to endure discrimination or feel that there is any stigma directed towards them due to experiencing mental ill health. Stigma exists for many reasons, culture, upbringing, background, personal experiences and lack of understanding and awareness. It’s high time people embarked upon a journey of shared understanding, set aside such thinking and stereotypes, and accepting that mental health is twinned with physical health. We talk about our positive and negative physical ailments easily and with no stigma attached to them. As a practical example, when your throat hurts, and you think something is not right, you visit the doctor, or if there is something wrong with your heart you see a cardiologist. For every physical problem you have a specialist and do not hesitate to get that support, seeking recovery and back to a comfortable physical state. The mind is different as it cannot be see and it cannot be weighed, but it can be listened to, and it can be treated. If your mind isn’t at ease and in a comfortable state, you cannot expect full productivity and interaction in the work place, plus we will likely see challenges with our physical body as well.
Another area of Stigma is in older generations where the phrase ‘in our day’ is used in reference to too much exposure to social media today, and that this is the cause of poor mental ill health, if they didn’t see messages of mental health challenges online they wouldn’t do it. First of all mental ill health was never given significance, and if you did talk about it you were seen as a ‘nutter’ or ‘crazy’ and put in a ‘nut house’, a phrase I heard growing up. So there’s perhaps no surprise and much to debate about why people ‘back in the day’ perhaps didn’t talk about mental health and how they were really feeling, and seeking help.
It is very important to remember that no one chooses to be mentally unwell just like no one chooses to be physically unwell. We can wake up one day and break a leg, we can wake up and the build-up of stress or an acute traumatic event can just hit us. Something from the past that has gone unsupported, unresolved, or undealt with. Another common theme towards mental ill health is that people experiencing mental ill health are dangerous, and in most cases they are not. The Charity Mind bring our attention from their research that ‘many people are still worried talking about how they are feeling, because of the fear and stigma of being seen as dangerous’ the opposite is true.
There are many different mental illnesses, and if someone is going through one, they are not crazy. Internal wounds, grief, or a state of mind can be so severe that sometimes it is difficult to express what is really going on, also people around them projecting opinions that are unsupported can impact on a person’s mental health adding to further distress or mental decline. Imagine being told to ‘just walk home’ after a broken leg.
Remember we are not all built the same, we all have different internal coping mechanisms. If you are a manager or employee and do not understand it, listening and being aware of pathways to support can be the start to supporting someone who is struggling.
We have an important role here at Simpila Mental Health and that is to support you, to support others. There is no place for stigma, and mental health and mental illness has only become an issue because of the stigma people still attach to it.
Let’s all commit to #BreakTheStigma