Mental Health Disorders: Let’s Destigmatize The Stigma

Snigdha Samantray, Clinical Psychologist

What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor & more unashamed conversations.

To understand the stigma associated with mental health disorders better, it is important to understand what stigma is. Stigma is when someone negatively views another person based on their uncommon and distinguishing characteristics or personality traits that are not considered to be normal in a society.

Such notions lead to discrimination and discrimination, in turn, leads to stigma. It has been observed that such stereotypical ideas stem from ignorance and lack of awareness about mental health disorders, which are held by people irrespective of age, education, gender or status.

Why it is necessary to be more aware

A person suffering from a mental health disorder, when subjected to prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour, will only sink deeper into agony. Stigma can have a very harmful effect on someone seeking help as it is bound to hinder recovery. It is due to this stigma that even health insurance companies don’t adequately cover treatment expenditures for mental health disorders. It is very sad that stigma also leads to a lack of understanding by family, friends or co-workers, lesser job opportunities and trouble finding housing.

What can we do to cope with stigma

450 million people worldwide have mental health-related issues. So, all people suffering from mental health disorders must know that they are not alone. Even when nobody around us speaks about mental health disorders, we must not assume its non-existence. It’s also important to know that being silent about it doesn’t help too. Here are a few self-help tools that will help you cope with the stigma:

  1. Seek help and know that it is available and treatable. But we only get help when we ask for it. So, you should always ask first. Do not let stigma create self-doubt and shame. So, accept your condition first and from that acceptance seek a solution.
  2. Do not isolate yourself to the point where you don’t find help or support. you don’t have to go and talk about your condition to everyone, but at least not hide it from important people like your spouse, family members and most importantly the doctor or the therapist.
  3. Don’t equate yourself with your condition. You are separate from your disorder. So instead of saying to yourself “I’m alcoholic,” say “I have alcoholism” Instead of labeling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.” Your disorder is a separate part of you which can be treated and improved.
  4. Join a support group. In addition to various kinds of psychological and psychiatric interventions, Self-help and support groups are also an integral part of the recovery process. The healing power of support groups can be extremely therapeutic when people facing similar issues come together to share their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. 

Support group programs

  • Some of the support groups programs in India, for mental health disorders, are provided by organizations like SCARF(schizophrenia research foundation), SAA(Schizophrenia awareness association), ASHA, AMEND (Association for Mentally Disabled) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).
  • Cadabams hospital, Vandrevala Foundation, Connecting, Sneha India foundation, Cooj, and Roshni are some of the 24/7 helplines available for both psychiatric emergencies and suicide prevention in India.
  • In this era of digitalization, many Apps have also come up with providing support and care for mental health disorders. ‘PUSH-D’ App (practice and use self-help for depression) by NIMHANS is one such app that provides self-help techniques to those undergoing depression. ‘We are more: my support network’ is an app like social networking sites who provide a support group for chronic and terminal conditions including mental health.

While steps are being taken and mental health issues are being discussed more openly than ever before, there is still a long way to go. 

We at mfine, being a digital platform, provide ease of access and quality care for mental health disorders and ensure a holistic interdisciplinary approach towards treatment. We believe that people don’t choose mental health disorders, but life and circumstance choose it for them. Hence, having empathy and compassion will not only facilitate the treatment but also channel them to the mainstream.

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