Well what about the countless people suffering from mental illnesses who are treated as though their disorder is their own fault?
Telling someone with depression to 'cheer up' is like telling someone with a broken leg to run to the hospital.
Telling someone with anorexia to 'just eat' is like telling someone with claustrophobia to get inside a small cupboard and lock the door.
Telling someone who self harms to 'just stop' is like telling a drug addict to sit in a room full of drugs and not touch anything.
These are illnesses. They are NOT a choice.
When a cancer patient dies, we blame the disease.
When someone suffering from depression commits suicide, we blame them. We brand them as 'selfish.'
'Did they even think about their poor family?'
'They could have just gotten help', I've heard people say.
But how can someone with a mental disorder muster up the courage to ask for help when:
- 65% of people acknowledge that being treated for a mental health problem is viewed by Irish society as a sign of failure.
- 20% of people are unsure they would live next door to someone who previously had a mental health problem.
- 15% are unsure if people with mental health issues should have children.
- 58% of people disagree that Irish people would treat someone with a mental health problem the same as anyone else
- and only 54% hold the view that Irish people would willingly accept someone with a mental health problem as a close friend.
It's 2014 yet there is still such a stigma on mental illnesses and it's ridiculous. For people with mental health issues learning to live with their disease is extremely difficult as it is. On one hand they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disorder. On the other, they are challenged by stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness.
Many peoples problems are made worse by the stigma and discrimination they experience - from society but also from families, friends and employers.
People with mental health problems are amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition to:
- Find work
- be in a steady, long-term relationship
- live in decent housing
- be socially included in mainstream society
This is because of STIGMA.
Many people believe that people with mental ill health are violent and dangerous when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people.
Awareness of mental health difficulties over the last five years HAS increased, and I understand that, fortunately, there ARE efforts being made to beak the stigma of mental illness in our society but honestly things like 'post 5 pictures that make you smile for mental health awareness' on Facebook really isn't going to work if you're the very same people who see scars on the wrist of the girl beside you and do nothing to help her and instead stares and whispers to your friends about it. Or when you gossip and make fun of that guy who spends all his time alone because his social anxiety prevents him from being able to live a normal life. Or when you judge that girl for eating so much when really her eating disorder causes her to binge and purge everyday.
This is the sort of thing that can worsen someone's mental health problems or delay them reaching out and getting help.
We need to be kinder to each other. We need to look out for those in need.
"If you know someone who's depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness and loneliness they're going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It's hard to be a friend to someone who's depressed, but it's one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do" - Stephen Fry
It is time that we face up to our prejudice towards mental illness.
Tackling stigma is not an easy task but it is well worth the effort. Those who experience mental health difficulties, with the right support and treatment, can have the opportunity to recover and live the enjoyable, fulfilling lives that they deserve
Sorry this is way too long but I like ranting :)