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Stigma And Shame: The Biggest Obstacles In Our Mental Wellbeing

Mental health is a global issue, and so is the taboo surrounding it. All over the world, people are more likely to talk about and seek help for physical health ailments than they are for mental health ones

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Imagine, for a second, that you've broken your leg. Now imagine not being able to tell anyone about it. You can't tell your parents because they may not understand how you broke your leg. "How did this happen? There's no reason for you to have broken your leg." You can't tell your friends because they may not understand how much it hurts. "Stop being weak! Just keep walking and you'll feel fine." You can't tell your superiors at work that you are taking time off due to your broken leg. "He didn't complete the project on time. Maybe that broken leg issue is back." You can't talk about your broken leg in public, or post about it on social media because you're worried about what people will think of you. This is what it feels like for most people who have a mental health concern.

The stigma associated with mental health issues is one of the biggest reasons that most individuals don't seek help. It is also a major reason why people don't get support from friends and family. Mental health is a global issue, and so is the taboo surrounding it. All over the world, people are more likely to talk about and seek help for physical health ailments than they are for mental health ones.

More so, in a collectivistic culture like ours, where what will people say is one of the most commonly heard lines, there is a sense of shame and embarrassment when it comes to mental health. Receiving professional help for psychological issues is often the last resort. Sometimes, mental health professionals rank even lower in the rungs of the solution ladder than astrologers and babas.

Notions of keeping issues within the family and speaking to elders instead of "outsiders" also abound. Furthermore, antiquated ideas that only insane people need to get professional help, or that by seeking help one automatically gets characterised as a crazy person, are common. The above issues have contributed to the unfamiliarity and aversion towards mental health concerns. There is a general insensitivity towards those who are going through mental health issues, because most people lack the knowledge of causes, risk factors, and symptoms.

Having depression, for example, is seen as a character flaw or a weakness, rather than a legitimate disorder. This taboo renders our entire society silent when it comes to ailments of the mind. The WHO has reported that depression is the leading cause of disability and sickness the world over. Depression and other mental health concerns are not trivial tantrums that one can shake off. They are often caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and sometimes a possible genetic predisposition to certain disorders.

Therefore, more attention needs to be given to this grossly ignored subject. The more we talk about mental health and wellbeing, the more normalised the subject will become. One of the most effective ways to diminish the stigma is by raising awareness about the various mental health concerns. Educating children in schools about bullying, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and other pertinent topics will familiarise people with these issues from an early age. Discussing mental health topics at school and college festivals can reinforce the importance of open dialogue.

Establishing employee assistance programs in organisations can ensure nonjudgmental support to those in need, as well as encourage sensitivity among coworkers. Additionally, having access to affordable, reliable, and ethical mental health services is imperative in reducing the taboo around mental health.

Ongoing stigmatisation is the equivalent of isolation and neglect of those in need. Therefore, individuals, organisations, cities, states, and nations need to put in their efforts into destigmatising mental health.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Nitika Gupta

The author has received her professional counseling license in the U.S. after having completed her bachelor's degree at University of Southern California and master's degrees at University of Pennsylvania. She has over 5 years of mental health experience working with children, adolescents, and adults

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