At a support group for parents of children with mental illnesses, I was exposed to a gamut of emotions that parents experience when they discover how severe the repercussions of mental illness can be for a family.
Each parent mourned for the way their relative’s life had changed. Shock, loss, grief, fear, confusion, ambivalence, guilt, helplessness, despair, sadness and hopelessness were common reactions.
We learned from one another to forge new and more realistic dreams and expectations. We learned to cope with the fact that mental illness attracts less empathy and more discrimination than other illnesses. We learned to take one day at a time. we learned that although early identification and treatment is essential, negative stereotypes deter people from acknowledging the early signs.
How come the importance of information about phisical health is acknowldged far and wide, while society understands and accepts mental health in a far less comprehensive manner? Reducing stigma requires widespread community education plus the willingness to challenge others when discrimination occurs in one’s presence.
Once again I mention journalists as they need access to accurate up to date information to ensure that their reporting will not unintentionally reinforce negative stereotypes. unfortunately, journalists worldwide use terms that often serve to perpetuate the awful stigma associated with mental illness. We hear; He didn’t take his meds. he’s crazy. She’s a violent seductress, a schizo, nuts, wacko or demented. These terms help keep the stigma going strong . Is this the aim of an accurate journalist who can easily verify information on mental illness on the internet or from a psychiatrist?