MPSA – Renita Busuttil

“The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversations” [Glenn Close, American actress, b. 1947]

O ur society is changing at a very fast rate, however unfortunately, some of our attitudes are stuck to our roots. Mentally ill people are stereotyped and often discriminated against. Many people are woefully misinformed about mental health and thus it has become surrounded by ignorance, prejudice and fear.

The impact of stigma is twofold. Social stigma refers to prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviour towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given, e.g. passing a negative remark about one’s mental condition and treatment. Subtle discrimination involves the avoidance of a person suffering from mental illness because it is assumed that the patient could be unstable. Self-stigma is the internalizing thoughts and silent fears which mental health sufferers go through due to their own perceptions of discrimination and perceived stigma, turning against themselves.

Therefore these patients are challenged doubly as they struggle with both the symptoms and complications that result from the disease and also the stereotypes and judgement that result from public humiliation and misconception about mental illness. This adds a greater burden, heavier to carry than the mental condition itself.

Mental illness can afect anyone, in different ways. The stigma and discrimination associated with mental health can be the hardest parts of the overall experience. Hence, we need to make a change in our daily judgemental comments and change them into positive vibes which bring happiness and courage to one another as one can never know what a person is going through.