Breaking the Silence: How is stigma a barrier to mental health?

Breaking the Silence: How is stigma a barrier to mental health?

Mental health is an integral component of health. According to WHO, “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Stigma is a term used to describe unfavourable attitudes or ideas held about a person because of a defining attribute, such as mental illness.   The purpose of this essay is to examine how stigma is a barrier to mental health and how to overcome such cultural and often self-imposed barriers in diverse communities.

               Stigma often comes from a place of misinformation and lack of understanding. A 2019 study done in India shows that “of the total 445 respondents, the prevalence of stigma towards mentally ill people was 74.5%.” Feelings of hopelessness, isolation, embarrassment, reluctance to seek care, lack of understanding by family or community, harassment, the belief that he or she will never be able to overcome the illness, and sometimes extreme measures such as self-harm or suicide are all effects of stigma on an individual. While the situation has improved in recent years, it has not evolved at a satisfactory rate. Stigma comes from within as well. Self-stigma is a bad attitude and internalised shame about one’s own condition. We can combat stigma by talking openly about mental health issues, educating ourselves and those around us about mental illnesses and how to treat them, being aware of the language and manner in which we address people with mental health conditions, joining support groups that provide programmes and resources to help people reduce the stigma associated with mental health, and making people understand that mental health is as important as physical health.  We may use social media to speak out against stigma and voice our opinions.

               Every culture has a unique perspective on mental health. Western cultural traditions have provided us with the majority of our knowledge about human psychology and mental health. What is rarely taken into account, however, is how cultural barriers in many nations have a significant impact on various mental health issues. Due to the stigma and shame associated with mental illness, people in various Asian countries do not seek care in the early stages. Racism and prejudice have a significant influence on diverse cultural groups, resulting in social estrangement, dread of public spaces, and loss of access to various services, all of which have a severe impact on an individual’s mental health. Mental health is also influenced by family and community support. However, due to stigma, most minorities are generally left to seek mental health therapy on their own. Another barrier is the scarcity of resources and treatment facilities. When seeking therapy for mental health disorders, it can be difficult to locate a clinician that understands the individual’s specific experiences and worries.

               It might be challenging to overcome cultural barriers to mental health in diverse societies. Early detection of social and emotional disorders through screening programmes in schools, universities, workplaces, and other places, as well as the provision of necessary treatment facilities, can assist communities in dealing with the problem. The role of the family is critical since they can provide crucial assistance and support to a person suffering from mental illness. Educating the families can help them support one another’s mental health. Clinicians are also important when it comes to cultural mental health. Clinicians must be aware of the patient’s background, be aware of the patient’s preconceived notions and biases, and educate patients and their families on mental health diagnosis and treatments by showing understanding and respect. Lastly, the government’s role is crucial to a community’s mental health. They should plan for the availability and accessibility of basic mental health treatment for everybody.

               In conclusion, this essay highlighted how stigma is a barrier to mental health and how to overcome cultural barriers in diverse groups. Because stigma has a significant impact on mental health, the community’s attitude toward mental health and well-being must be reframed. Because culture shapes how people think, act, and feel, a cultural shift in how various cultures view mental health is required. Only through improving one’s understanding of the situation can one help and get help. The problem will only get worse if we do not pay as much attention to mental health as we do to physical health.

-by Abhiram Rao Damera


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