It is very unfortunate that a majority of people do not understand mental illness and as a result, hold a negative point of view of the people who are suffering. In 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that in America alone, 48.3 million people experience mental illness. They also note that lack of awareness and stigma is costing the country around $193 billion every year. The question is,what causes stigma?

Lack of Understanding

A negative point of view about a mental illness often results from people’s lack of understanding. Often you’ll encounter people who describe a person suffering from mental illness as “mad” or “crazy”. They tend to exclude these people from becoming a part of the mainstream and make fun of them. You take the name of any mental illness (such as Schizophrenia, Asperger’s Syndrome) and people will immediately paint a picture with negative connotations. Often, misguided beliefs aggravate such problems.

In a study conducted by Dr. A.H Crisp in2000, he made some startling revelations. This was conducted in the UK and involved 1700 adult participants. The study, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry found that majority of people believed people suffering from mental illness were dangerous, particularly, people who suffered from Schizophrenia, drug abuse, and alcoholism. It also found that people believed that mental disorders such as substance abuse and eating disorders are self-inflicted.

Why Stigma Matters?

Stigma encapsulates discriminating and prejudiced attitude against a specific group of people. Holding negative point of views regarding the patients or stigmatising them can often make the emotionally and mentally vulnerable. It results in low self-esteem in the patients and affects their day to day life. This ultimately close their road to recovery.

It is, therefore, important to eliminate stigma about mental illness. A growing awareness related to mental illness is the only way to ensure this. Simply providing the information won’t help but what is required is a mass interaction between the people suffering from mental illness and those without it. Positive interaction can facilitate eliminating discriminatory attitude against mentally ill person.

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