Hi. My name is Isabel Medlock. Earlier this school year our class started a project called You and the World. Each of us chose an issue, researched it and then wrote a blog post about it. Here is the link to my first post. The issue I chose is the stigma of mental illness, the negative way people perceive mental illness and those affected by it. In my first blog post I talked about people’s opinions on mental illness, the discrimination that those with affected by it face, and the fact that the mentally ill don’t seek the help they need because of the stigma. Since then, I have researched my topic online further and also conducted an interview with a mental health professional.
Recently, I have learned about the Mental Health Parity, which requires health insurance providers to give the same benefits, financial requirements, and limitations as those that apply to physical health benefits. I also researched discrimination against people with a mental illness in other parts of the world. For example, in Lithuania people with mental health problems are not allowed to own a home. In some parts of Korea people with mental health problems are not allowed to enter a swimming pool. I also learned that about 75% of Americans and Europeans with a mental illness don’t receive treatment.
This is an image that provides information about how different places in the world have rules that stigmatize people with mental illnesses.
For my original research I interviewed Dr. William Fox, a psychiatrist. One important thing I took away from the interview was how people are affected by the stigma. It limits their ability to get help because of “lack of awareness —often willful, lack of effective treatments/options, and lack of access.” Sometimes they are unaware of their condition and in other cases they don’t want to believe that they have a problem. Also people lose health insurance coverage, employment and relationships. I also learned about the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief and how it also relates to how people cope with mental illness. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When people find out that they have a mental illness they don’t want to believe so they are in denial. Next, they are angry about having a mental illness. Then they try bargaining with the doctor to get them to fix their problem. Next is depression which “is both a stage and diagnosis, but often people have " secondary depression" about having another psychiatric issue.” Last is acceptance, which is not the resolution of their illness but coming to terms with their situation. Stigma is causing people with mental illness to act so ashamed about having a mental issue. I think that it’s terrible that people get secondary depression just because they have a psychiatric issue. This interview helped me understand what people with mental illnesses go through, how the stigma affects them and what people can do to help.
After analyzing the information I've read online and conducting the interview I have gained some new insights on the many issues that people with mental illnesses face. Reading about the Mental Health Parity made me realize that some things are getting better for people with mental illnesses. Although some things are getting better there is still a long way to go until the people with mental illness aren't stigmatized and don’t have to face prejudice and discrimination. I reviewed some more statistics that reaffirmed what I already knew about the stigma of mental illness and how it prevents people from getting help. For example, only 25% of Americans and Europeans get treatment for their mental illnesses. All the new information made me realize that this issue is worse than I imagined it to be when I began working on this project.
This image provides information about people with mental illnesses and whether or not they are violent.
Now that I’ve learned more about the stigma of mental illness I’ve realized that it is a much bigger issue than I originally thought. It is unfortunate that people aren’t able to receive the help they need because of society's negative view on mental illness. And because they can get help some people are driven to commit suicide. If there wasn’t so much stigma associated with mental illness there would be less people committing suicide and so many people would have better lives. It is also unfortunate that the mentally ill are so misunderstood, which the image above shows. People see the mentally ill as violent criminals when in fact they are usually the victims of crimes. This is another way stigma affects the mentally ill. I also feel ashamed of our society and of myself. Before I started this project I didn't know anything about mental health stigma and I believed the stereotypes about people with mental illness. I never considered how those with mental illness felt or were affected by those who didn't understand or even know what they were going through. It’s extremely important that people start raising more awareness of this issue so there is no more stigma.
The image on the left is a poster that is meant to help fight stigma. The image on the right is from a magazine that wrote an article about how violent people with mental illnesses are.
Even after learning more about the stigma of mental illness I still have several more questions. When and why did people start feeling so negatively towards mental illness and those affected by it? How were those with mental illness treated in the past? What were the conditions in mental asylums in the past? What are the conditions in mental asylums now? As I keep on researching my topic I hope to find the answers to these questions and also to find ways I can help.
As part of our project we have to do something to help solve the issue and be an “Agent of Change”. Since I can’t really volunteer somewhere and do something meaningful, I’m going to spread awareness of the issue. One way I hope to do that is by discussing this issue with my advisory so they can learn about it and hopefully teach others about it.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to read my next blog post!
Here is the link to the entire interview.
Articles about this issue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natasha-tracy/mental-illness_b_4761908.html