The Stigma Associated With Mental Illness In The United States and Abroad

Sandra Appiah April 12, 2011

By: Patricia Kissi

When you hear the words mental illness what exactly comes to mind? So many people live with the delusion that mental illness can never happen to them. They do not realize that it takes only a moment of complete desperation, and a feeling of being overwhelmed that can put you over the edge.

As a therapist in the field, I have first hand experience in recognizing the signs of mental illness and I know how easily it can take a hold of someone. Coming from a spiritual point of view I have always believed that any illness that takes over your mind is a spiritual attack that manifests in the physical.

When we hear about the different traumatic events that have taken place all over the world we are able to recognize that the individuals are not in the right frame of mind. How many times does this have to happen–think Virginia Tech–before we recognize how pervasive mental illness is and cut through the legal and emotional barriers that can keep someone from receiving treatment as soon as symptoms develop?

The first signs of 75% of all psychiatric disorders appear by the age of 24.
We must develop a plan for increasing the awareness about the importance of mental health and its correlation with other health issues. Unfortunately, people with mental illness do not have equal access to quality health care and treatment when compared to patients with other illnesses.

Many view mental health problems as taboo and they dismiss it as an illegitimate illness. Part of this problem is due to the stigma attached to people with mental disorders. There is a general fear and unease surrounding psychiatric illness, particularly disorders like schizophrenia, that allow individuals to live in a world in which they can not differentiate between real and unreal.

In the past, in some places in Africa, if you were found to be mentally ill you would be considered unworthy of life and would possibly even be killed. Mental illness is still frowned upon in our communities back home. In order to move forward from the stigma that keeps most people from seeking help we must educate others on this issue. Mental illness is no different from someone suffering from cancer, or diabetes. It is an illness in its own category and should be treated like any other disease. There are currently more and more resources that have become available in the states to help address the illness. However, in many countries in Africa the stigma lives on.

When a person is diagnosed with a mental illness it usually stems from several key factors, which including: biological, environmental, chemical and, of course, spiritual factors. These different situations can then manifest and turn into depression, anxiety, paranoia, sucidity and substance abuse disorder, the list goes on.

To ensure that the Illness is addressed we must learn how to treat the disease. Pharmacotherapy is the treatment of the disease with use of drugs. There are a number of different types of medications available to treat specific disorders.

Psychotherapy is the general term for the treatment of mental illness or emotional disturbances primarily through verbal or non-verbal communication. This type of treatment effects change through the development of a trusting relationship. There are a number of different types of treatments and therapies. The goal is to continue to deliver vital information in hopes that the Illness will be recognized and treated properly.

Last Edited by: Updated: September 12, 2018


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