There is still a long way to go when unpacking the negative and often inaccurate stigma around more serious conditions, 17-year-old student Elona Sekiraq writes for Mirror NextGen
Image: Getty Images)
We are making so much progress when it comes to mental health, but more needs to be done to tackle the stigma around serious forms of mental illness, such as bipolar or schizophrenia.
It has been encouraging to see the big push to be more open about mental health, especially during the tough times of the pandemic.
But there is still a long way to go when unpacking the negative and often inaccurate stigma around more serious conditions.
Aisling Traynor, head of advice and information services at Rethink Mental illness, says: “I think in some respects, some stigma is reducing.
“So for example, conditions like depression and anxiety. I think people are becoming more comfortable speaking about those conditions. I think people are becoming more accepting of those conditions.
“But where I think there is still a lot of stigma is more those people severely affected by mental illness. So that might be someone with schizophrenia, for example, or bipolar. And there really is a problem with stigma.”
These illnesses are much more common than we think, with one in 100 people being affected by schizophrenia.
By seeing how common these mental illnesses are, the representation we often see in the media bears little resemblance to reality.
Aisling adds: “What I would like to see more about is more awareness around those that are affected by more severe forms of mental illness.
“A surprisingly common example is schizophrenia – one in 100 people are affected – which seems like quite a large number of people.
“And I think that there is a lot of stuff in the news about mental health, which is great, but it probably does look more at conditions like depression and anxiety.”
Most importantly, Aisling says we need to remind ourselves that even those with the most serious conditions can live “wonderful and fulfilling lives”.
“When you’re thinking of trying to break down stigma, it’d be great to see more around people who are severely affected by mental illness, and also just some of their incredible journeys,” she says.
“These are people who are living with mental illness, but actually living wonderful, fulfilling lives and it’s shining a light on that.
“Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t have a sort of really positive life and have hope. So I think that’s what I would like to see covered a bit more.”
More people are using social media than ever before and as a result, platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok have also made us more exposed to media that have presented mental health in a particular shape or form.
Taking the example of schizophrenia. Some media coverage, whether it’s in the news, on social media, in a TV drama or in films, can portray schizophrenia as being unpredictable and causing violent behaviour.
The current symptoms are lack of motivation, disorganized thinking, etc, according to Rethink Mental Illness.
This highlights the detrimental impacts media can have hence, causing frequent misconceptions around mental illnesses.
But social media platforms can also be a force for good.
Tiktoker @mdmotivator shares stories in public where he holds a sign and those that relate to it hug him. His of him most viral tiktok of him with 50 million views in November 2021 where a mother thanks him for what he’s doing and with more stories from other people experiencing pain from loss.
The great thing we can take away from this is that it is okay to trust one another and it is okay to seek help.
It does not make you weak, if anything it makes you stronger for standing up against the inner voice in your head telling you to give up.
That little grain of hope is what we need to hold on to in order for us to blossom and be the person we never knew we could.
Accounts like this utilizing their platforms to share their message along with people globally interacting through the comments function to share their stories provide that ability to heal and give hope to the person reading it that it will get better.
People do, however, need to take care when using the internet and social media for self-diagnosis.
The paranoia and fear instilled from this can cause more stress and trauma in yourself as well as the people around yourself.
So before jumping to conclusions, it is better to seek professional medical help instead of jumping to immediate conclusions that can cause more harm than good.
Aisling says: “What we would always say is that it’s really important to speak to a professional to get a diagnosis.
“So even if you want to have a little research online first, that’s okay.
“But it’s so important to get a professional diagnosis so that you don’t sort of misunderstand maybe what your condition might be or what the appropriate support might be for you”.
The battle against the stigma and negative perception of mental health is far from over.
It’s going to take the whole world and future generations to instill this change.
It’s crucial to remember that during this time that we are more similar than different.
These problems that we hide from society are more common than we think and the exposure to this is what will bring forth the feeling of security to be able to talk to people and not be ashamed that we feel alone and scared.
Instead, embrace this to set a healthy example for the younger generations.