Author title – Laura Muth
Did you know that a quarter of the population experience some form of mental health problem at some point during their life?
More specifically, depression has one of the most prevalent mental illnesses, with 1 in 3 people experiencing depressive symptoms at some point during their lifetime. Sadly, despite this high prevalence, mental health is still widely misunderstood. It is therefore increasingly important to raise awareness for depression and tackle the stigma and widespread confusion surrounding mental health.
Social stigma refers to prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviours based on the psychiatric label given to an individual who is suffering from mental health problems. Unfortunately, research has suggested that stigmatising attitudes are commonly held. 1 in 4 people reported to feeling that depression was a sign of personal weakness. Therefore, besides the personal struggles of suffering from depression, other individuals perceptions of their illnesses can have long-lasting negative effects. People with mental health problems often report that this social stigma attached to their illness can make their problems worse and recovery harder.
Challenging the Stigma
- Mental illness is complex – it is a physiological condition with psychological and spiritual components. The healing needs to come from multiple sources and every person’s recovery is different. It is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
- Depression is not just ‘in your head’ – it is a brain disorder, which means that the chemicals in your brain that regulate your mood, thought process and motivation are affected.
- Individuals suffering from depression are not just lazy – there are many inaccurate stereotypes of people who suffer from depression such as, they lack willpower, or are antisocial or lazy. This is not true.
- Medication is not an immediate cure – although medications can alleviate symptoms, they cannot provide all the answers and are not capable of fixing everything. If only it was that simple!
- Friends and family members can help – reaching out and providing support and understanding can be really beneficial to the sufferer. Educate yourself about mental health and do what you can to correct misconceptions.
- Mental illness is treatable – most people with a mental illness fully recover with appropriate treatment and support. Remember: recovery is ALWAYS possible.