- Having a mental disorder is not cute.
- But it is totally cool to talk about it.
Getting diagnosed with a mental disorder is a painful experience. First of all, it is not as discussed as a leg injury. So, you don’t know the details whether it is a broken bone, a ligament tear, or just a sprain. Secondly, you become the black sheep by bringing such shame on your family and yourself. You freak out your friends and they start avoiding you. The image of a mental hospital is not so pretty either. Somehow we conjure up this picture of electric shocks, iron chains and screaming madmen at the mention of the word “psychology”.
The idea that mental disorder is a “flaw” dates back to centuries. In the 18th century, people were put in jail for their illness. Around the 1800s, controversial brain surgeries began in order to “calm down” the ill. Even in a progressive society, where people think twice before uttering a racial slur, mental health issues are discussed thoughtlessly. People crack lunatic jokes without realizing that mental disorders are disorders of the brain and you cannot “just stop thinking about it”.
The negative attitudes arise from the perception that mentally ill people are dangerous. Media plays a big role in creating this notion. Sensationalized news stories about violent acts by a mentally ill person are published more than stories of recovery. These attitudes manifest themselves in social distancing because of the unconscious fantasy that mental disorders are contagious and the ill are essentially harmful. The immediate effect of such distancing is the feeling of loneliness. Also, patients often develop self-stigma resulting in “why try” attitude that worsens the prospects of recovery. The worst effect of stigma is that it deters people from accepting their illness and approaching a professional.
We need to stop damaging people due to our lack of understanding of the subject. Learning to accept the condition, seek support, and educate others about it is the beginning of a difference. The idea is not just to change our perception but to focus on repairing the root issues like government policies and medical facilities. And us, who do not have the power to make systemic changes actually have the bigger power. We need to call out the judgmental viewpoints for being ignorant towards a section of the society.