Stigma is commonly defined as “a mark of shame, dishonor or disgrace.” It’s also defined as a set of negative and unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.
Mental illness is commonly mentioned as the leading example of stigma and is often cited as the predominant reason that two-thirds or more of all people who suffer from mental illness refrain from seeking treatment. That’s why we’ve made awareness through education the cornerstone of the SHINE Initiative mission.
We believe the best way to diffuse stigma is by acquainting ourselves with mental illness, what are its causes, how is it defined, and – most importantly – how to accept it as a mainstream health issue. After all, short of the common cold, few other illnesses affect as many people of all ages as does mental illness.
Ask yourself this:
As a youth, you’d likely stay home from school. As an adult, you’d likely stay home from work. But the first action you would likely take would be “to tell someone” that you’re not feeling well.
When most people experience psychological or emotional distress there is a reluctance to speak to someone. The individual may have difficulty understanding and expressing their feelings, they may not know where and how to turn for help, or they may worry about the implications and consequences of their admission. And it’s not only young people who fear becoming a social pariah. It’s also the adult who worries that their illness will impede their ability to succeed in a job, career, and what toll will it take on friendships and relationships.
And that’s simply not fair.
Just as our heart, lungs, limbs and other parts of our body can suffer from assorted illnesses and injuries, our brain can get also sick. That’s why we need to know and remember that mental illness is just that, an ILLNESS.