Jul 14

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The stigma of mental illness


Mental health issues? It’s time for some respect

You wouldn’t dismiss someone with a broken leg, so why dismiss someone suffering with mental health? A high percentage of those in Britain suffering from a form of mental health disorder are too scared to speak out, to a medical professional or a family member. What is the reason for this? Katherine Scott says it’s time to talk about it

Don't just dismiss the problem of mental illness

Don’t just dismiss the problem of mental illness

The popular supermarket Asda released a Halloween costume last year which the retailer’s website described as a ‘mental health patient’. The costume involved white, ragged clothing covered in blood. Accompanying the costume was a fake prop of a meat clever.

The costumes implied that that those who suffer from forms of mental health illnesses such as bi-polar are capable of killing and are ‘evil’. This caused a huge backlash from the public.

It is the kind of move which is encouraging and fuelling a stigma. When in reality, those who are suffering, or have suffered, are no different to anyone else.

People with a mental illness need medical help, to be understood and supported, not laughed at.

The Asda costume could also be looked at from a different perspective, which is just as negative – if not more.

Common Halloween costumes are often witches and zombies. Both of which are fictional and created for story-telling purposes.  This could possibly be insinuating that mental health illnesses are myths. Feelings which are felt, and exaggerated by those who have suffered, and are excuses for feeling ‘down’ for a long period of time.

To even consider this as true is disgraceful. Those who have previously dismissed mental health illnesses as being unreal should feel ashamed. There is so much evidence to prove otherwise.

Smoking and eating excessively, for example, can be coping mechanisms and thousands die needlessly from doing this,  rather than seeking the help they desperately need. This is outrageous.

A staggering 40% of those who smoke have a mental illness, according to figures. If the topic of mental health wasn’t so taboo, the number of deaths would drop.

Charities and campaigners such as ‘Mind’ alongside ‘Time to Change’ are continuing to try to change the attitudes of the public,  though the old fashioned attitudes of society means this is taking far longer than it should. These charities are trying to encourage people to portray mental health in the correct way.

In doing so, incidents such as Asda’s Halloween costume will hopefully one day be prevented.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-image35060966On a more positive note, there have been many accomplishments in recent times thanks to these charities and their hard work.

This includes a significant rise in funding by the government to widen the public’s access to psychological therapists and an increase in documentaries on the subject of mental health, encouraging the public to think about the issue.

Changing the opinions of the public isn’t easy. However, I feel we will one day live in a society where there is no stigma around mental health.  It’s time to talk, and it’s time to change our thoughts.

Katherine Scott is a media student at Havering college. Thank you for contributing to Dandelion

Permanent link to this article: http://dandelionproject.org/pub/the-stigma-of-mental-illness/


  1. helendeal

    Yes we think this is about something really important and relevant to lots of people. Thanks for the appreciation :)

  2. maria court

    Being some one that has been on anti depressants for ovemaybe this time, 10years,
    the stigma is always there. From filling out insurance forms to other
    difficult situations, people still look down on you, even if the have never
    met you, and people that know me are shocked why? It can happen to anyone I
    have been to the doctor’s today and he would like me to try and come off,
    I asked him do some people stay on them for life and he said yes and if I
    am one of those people it doesn’t make me a bad person. I have had to cope
    with a lot in my time and my life is now a happy one so maybe this time,but if not
    but if not heh ho its not the end of world. Really liked your article and let’s
    hope things change xx

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