1 in 5 South Australians experiences mental illness. While you’re thinking about who in your life that might be (a family member, a friend, a colleague), take a moment to consider that it’s hard enough to cope with a mental illness without being judged.
Stigma can be more difficult to deal with than mental illness
Stigma = stereotyping + prejudice + discrimination
One of the biggest obstacles for people experiencing or recovering from mental illness is confronting the attitudes of other people. Why should anyone face isolation and discrimination just for having an illness?
Stigma can bring about feelings of:
- loneliness, isolation and social exclusion
- stereotyping and derogatory labels
- misrepresentation in the media
- being treated differently than the rest of society, and
- discrimination in housing, employment or services.
How can we rethink mental illness?
As a community, we should all play a part in supporting people with mental illness. Social inclusion is an easy way to start. Everyone should make conscious efforts to reduce discrimination. The more hidden mental illness remains, the more people continue to believe that it is shameful and needs to be concealed.
Here are some simple ways to help you rethink mental illness:
- Learn and share the facts about mental health and illness
- Get to know people with personal experiences of mental illness
- Be kind and supportive when you see someone in distress
- Speak up when friends, family, colleagues or the media use language and/or misinformation that perpetuates false beliefs and negative stereotypes
- Offer the same support to people when they are unwell whether they have a physical or mental illness
- Don’t label or judge people by their illness
- Treat people with a mental illness with respect and dignity, as you would anyone else
- Talk openly of your own experience of mental illness.
Thanks to the Mental Health Commission of WA for information about stigma in mental illness.