The Mental Health Stigma
Mental health holds no bias on who it targets, no matter your gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or country you reside in, you or someone you know can suffer from a mental health disorder. Regardless of how merciless mental disorders can be, there is still an overbearing stigma behind it all. Some say it doesn’t exist, others say you are “crazy” and most importantly it is not acceptable to talk about in schools or at work without fear of being ostracized. The stigma behind mental health needs to be changed in our workplace, in our schools and in our homes.
The workplace can be an isolating place, fraternizing amongst colleagues is discouraged, workers must remain within the confines of a six-by-six-foot cubicle and provide the upmost customer satisfaction. How can employees provide great service if they feel so unhappy? Even those with the best of work ethics cannot be expected to continue a perfect streak of satisfaction and consistency without getting the much-needed interaction of their peers. Companies and corporations should be putting their employees first, making sure they are satisfied with their work environment and engaging with them in order to receive the output they are looking for. A satisfied customer starts with a satisfied employee, but unfortunately mental health is often put on the back burner in the cogs of consumer giants.
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What is this doing to society as a whole? Being told consistently that mental health should be left at home and keeping up company standards and appearances are of the upmost importance, sufferers feel if they disclose their mental illness to their employer, they are at risk of possibly losing their job or being treated differently by colleagues. Instead of seeking the help they need they suppress their emotions due to the stigma surrounding invisible illness. These feelings at work is only the tip of the iceberg, they clock out and take their loneliness, anger, anxiety and depression from their unsatisfactory occupational environments home with them.
High school students today are facing the highest stress and anxiety rates seen in any other generation, yet mental health issues are still taboo. In all of the roughly 50 million children in public schools, upwards of 20 percent or 5 million kids, are showing signs of a mental health disorder. Schools lacking proper resources, lacking mental health education and the cultural stigma are contributing to the student mental health crisis. Teachers, who are investing the most time into their students, are majority of the time not trained in mental health. They are also so overloaded with other students, classes, and grading that they can often miss the subtle signs that can save students lives. Furthermore, psychology and health education are rarely part of student’s curriculum, leaving children uneducated and in the dark with their own mental health.
School counselors are not receiving any prizes in this regard either, with a case load averaging around 500 students and specializing in academics, they rarely see the student and cannot decipher a change in behavior. So, what is to be done? Students suffering from mental illness have a harder time keeping up with their peers regarding academics. They can be fearful of speaking up in the classroom and have a harder time making friends, isolating them even further into their ailments and making them feel like no one is there to help them. Ridding the stigma behind mental illness in schools, educating staff and students, and making more options of help available to these students will significantly benefit those in need.
Mental illness does not stop once the workday is finished, it will not go away because you left the halls of the school, it follows you wherever you turn. Where you once felt safe, you felt nothing could hurt you in the warm walls of your home, mental illness has begun to take over and turn your beautiful, eggshell white walls-pitch black. The darkness begins to sink in, the walls begin to close in on you and your body becomes cold to the touch. Who can you turn to? In fear of being treated as if you are a freshly broken glass on the floor, you tell no one and suffer in silence until the silence becomes unbearable.
In families with no knowledge on mental illness, the fear of telling someone shakes them to their core. What will their families think of them? Some will say they are just going through a phase and to get over it, everyone feels sad sometimes. Others will think their relative is on the verge of suicide and treat them like a newborn baby bird who has not yet gotten their flight feathers. Any reaction of the sort is a result of one common factor, the lack of education behind mental illness. How can we as a society combat this epidemic? We need to educate, show the recourse available to those of all income levels. Educate not only suffers but family members, friends, colleagues, peers, and even the educators themselves. There is help and it should never be shamed to seek it. The stigma behind mental illness all stems from a lack of knowledge.