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Mental Health Awareness Matters

10 months ago · · 0 comments

Mental Health Awareness Matters

For a long time, mental health has been a taboo subject, shrouded in stigma and doubt. Yet, it affects our overall quality of life. Talking about it reduces stigma, and promotes early intervention.

Not so long ago, my friend Sally (not her real name), succumbed to a vocal outburst, muttering incoherent words that turned into loud cries and a string of indescribable words. She had been through too much after a noisy separation from her spouse, and she struggled to juggle work and parenting.

Her trigger, we guessed, was a co-parenting trip.

You know how seeing the person who caused you endless pain doesn’t help with healing? And how you can’t move on? And then finally you blow up? That’s what happened. For three hours, she recounted her ex-husband’s verbal and physical abuse, disparaging him in the most damning manner, ultimately dismantling his character. Eventually, she was taken to the hospital, albeit with some resistance.

The following day small groups gathered around her home, engaging in low-tone discussions. Some genuinely didn’t know how to help or where to start, but some were judgemental.

I hate to think they viewed her episode as a personal weakness, or a character flaw rather than a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment and support.

Sally’s situation highlights the pressing need for open and comprehensive discussions about mental well-being to end the stigma. Although we’ve made strides in raising awareness, there is still much to be done to reduce stigma.

What Is Stigma and How Does It Impact an Individual?

Stigma is a mark of shame or dishonor directed at people with mental health struggles. It is the finger-pointing, disapproving, and at times curious looks, following an episode. It is the negative reaction after people discover you have mental wellness issues.

Stigma can lead to unwarranted feelings of shame or guilt, especially after a scene like Sally’s. No wonder, people who struggle with mental health issues often feel ashamed or too embarrassed to seek help. They fear judgment or discrimination in communities or at their workplace, manifested in labeling and name-calling.

What follows is:
● Isolation and a gradual worsening of mental health
● Feelings of hopelessness and a desire for substance abuse to numb the pain
● A don’t care attitude or a sudden personality change, e.g. anger outbursts, starting to take alcohol,
a daredevil attitude, etc.
● Sudden neglect of personal hygiene
● Talks of suicide

These far-reaching results take time to recover from and can be life-changing.

It is why society must stop the stigma, and understand that stigma only exacerbates mental health issues. It lowers the quality of life and is directly linked to depression.

This is why we implore you to be more understanding and accommodating. We need to create a supportive society. Be proactive and actively seek therapy after noticing the aforementioned warning signs. Creating a conducive environment for the person to open up and talk about their problems also helps.

In Sally’s case, a counseling psychologist would have helped her navigate her feelings after the separation. She needed to let out her frustrations and address the anger until she got to a place of acceptance.

What Do We Learn From This Scenario?

1. Mental wellness affects overall quality of life. Sally was struggling, in pain, and tired. Clearly,
all was not well.

2. We should talk more about mental wellness. Had the community around Sally been more informed, they
wouldn’t have discussed her in hushed tones. It would have reduced stigma.

3. Education or empowerment is important. Sally and her friends could have made the informed decision
to seek appropriate support after identifying the warning signs.

4. Mental health awareness leads to improved relationships. Sally’s community would have been more
compassionate and empathetic to her had they known what she was going through.

5. Early intervention. This is the most important lesson. Sally must have had telltale signs of a
mental health challenge, which relatives and friends must have noted. Should they have known, what
to do, the situation would not have escalated to a verbal outburst.

Steps to Break the Stigma

Breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health is crucial if we want to help those who need help. You and I must raise awareness and promote open dialogue. We must continually create an understanding society that allows people to seek help without fear.

We can do this by:

1- Understanding That Mental Wellness Is Just as Important as Physical Wellness

When a close friend or relative is sick, we empathize with them. We visit them bearing gifts and get-well-soon cards. The same compassion and empathy should be extended to mental health patients. And no, pity does not fall in the empathy category.

Send recovery messages to mental health patients. Visit them often, and let them know it’s gonna be okay.

2-Talking About Mental Health Issues Openly

If you’ve suffered from depression, PTSD, or are bipolar, talk about it. Educate and inform society.
People tend to be ignorant and talking about it helps. Anyone affected will know what to do in such a situation. It also encourages someone who could be going through a similar issue in silence.

3- Understanding Mental Illness Needs Medical Treatment

If  you see someone down don't be tempted to step on them. Do your best to lift them .

Often, people with mental health issues are blamed for not doing enough. Society sometimes thinks they could have done more to avoid the situation, or that the condition can be prayed over.

Such situations cannot be wished away, and will not pass with time. The reality is, mental illness needs medical treatment.

Blaming a mental health patient for getting sick is like blaming someone for getting cancer. I mean, no one wishes to get sick.

Similarly, life experiences beyond their control led them there. In Sally’s case, there’s nothing she could have done to stop the separation and the pain which followed.

Promote a Culture of Acceptance and Understanding Around Mental Health

We can all do our part to promote mental well-being. Whether it’s by:

● talking openly about it
● educating ourselves and others about these issues
● advocating for better services and resources
Every action counts.

Let’s normalize seeking treatment for mental health as is with physical health, and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable seeking help. Above all, let’s stop stigmatizing anyone with mental health issues or anyone undergoing treatment.

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