This week in lab we discussed stigma. Especially, “in the case of mental illness, stigma includes perceptions that the person with the illness may in some way be responsible for the illness or that the family is to blame” (Smart, 2001). Stigma can cause the individual suffering from mental illness to start believing that the myths about their illness is true and that they are to blame. For instance, a person suffering from depression can start to believe that it is in fact their fault they are feeling the way they do because everyone else tells them so. This is a vicious cycle of negative thinking that can perpetuate the symptoms of depression. Because mental illness is not as tangible and can be quite hard to comprehend, people tend to dismiss it. This becomes a problem when even healthcare professionals dismiss alarming symptoms of mental illness. To not validate abnormal feelings and emotions could be ultimately detrimental to a patients wellbeing. Furthermore, if health care workers continue to dismiss the importance of mental health, our future clients will begin to think that their mental health symptoms are not worthy and as a result they may not seek help from family, friends or professionals.
In hospitals and medical centers, physical health tends to outweigh mental health. Looking to the future, we must start to look out for our client’s mental wellbeing in addition to their physical well being on the same level of importance. We will have to strategically and thoughtfully decide whether or not the client’s feelings are on a regular spectrum of human emotions or whether their mental wellbeing is negatively affecting function.
In lab we were asked to make glasses out of materials provided in class. The instructor would then call out a name at random and we would have to stand up with our newly made glasses and answer a random question. This exercise was meant to make us feel vulnerable and a little bit anxious as we would be uncertain about when our name would be called and what answer we would give. The glasses were meant to be a way to make us feel more self-conscious and silly. Students would feel more nervous because all eyes would be on them.
I enjoy this activity as it provides us with first hand emotions and experience one with mental illness might feel on a day to day basis. For me personally, I felt a little bit anxious and wanted to get it over with as fast as I could as I do not usually enjoy being in the spotlight.
This was an effective tool to make each student feel emotions that someone with mental health disorders could experience; we experienced these emotions for 30 seconds and they may experience these feelings 24/7. People often have difficulties understanding mental health because it is not tangible. We can’t visualize mental health like we can visualize a broken arm. To put us in their shoes, even if its for a couple seconds, is the best tool for learning.
Smart, J. (2001). Disability and the Individual. Austin, TX: ProEd.
The Canadian Mental health Association has a section on their website that discusses stigma and mental health. They provide extensive information regarding stigma in the Canadian community and how it affects individuals with mental health.
“In 2001, the World Health Organization declared stigma to be the “single most important barrier to overcome in the community”
They indicate that public education is the first tool to fight stigma. They specifically call to target a specific audience rather than the population at large and involve people with mental illness and their families in all aspects of rehabilitation.
Click here to access the webpage:
Canadian Mental Health Association. (n.d.). Stigma and mental illness . Retrieved from https://psychoemotionaljournal.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=21&action=edit&message=1