Why do mental health symptoms or mental illness have a stigma to them? And more importantly why do people keep it quiet?
Even the most simple of mental health symptoms produce the same. Just the mere mention of a symptom that everyone has experienced from time to time, such as anxiety, depression or even obsessive-compulsive cleaning and phobias.
It doesn’t matter how serious the mental health condition is or the label that has been applied to it, the reaction from people is still the same.
There are many physical diseases which get very little in the way of stigma or ridicule, let alone judgements BUT anything related to mental health produces a concerned opinion from people.
This area of study is quite profound and complex and one could quite easily make it even more complex with theories, opinions and views as to why stigmas are attached to any kind of mental health disorder.
There are many schools of thought providing various theories from sociological to biological and evolutionary. Interestingly these profound schools of thought based in psychology do clash with each other as they debate and argue that this is right and the other is wrong and so on.
First and foremost mental health illness has come a long way in the last 20 years and many symptoms that were not understood 20 years back such as OCD and anxiety are now categorised as mental health disorders.
This generation still has the view that mental health sickness or mental health illness is connected to the more serious views of past Victorian times where people would be incarcerated or sectioned under a mental health act and the patient would be given psychiatric drugs or electric treatments thus producing even more mental disorder in that patient.
People who have never experienced mild mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety related symptoms generally see the word mental health illness associated to people who are insane or who are close to insanity.
Simple everyday mental health issues amongst the majority of people are now manageable but many people still associate anything that would be considered a mild mental health disorder as linked with severe mental health sickness that only those people in mental institutions have for some unknown reason.
Even when people hear that a co-worker or old friend has ended up in a psychiatric hospital because they had a nervous breakdown or a mental and emotional collapse become shocked, when in fact many people booked themselves into treatment centres regularly and paying for help privately.
There are many reasons for the ignorant views and opinions from non sufferers on people who have mental health problems.
One of these reasons is associated to people’s ignorance that mental health is all the same which is severe and that mentally ill people could be dangerous or even a threat both physically and verbally to us all.
On some level this is true but then the same could be argued that there are more dangerous people who are not mentally ill who could assault you in the street, mug you or physically hurt you with a weapon for nothing justified.
Someone who has never experienced a mental health problem are in some way socially concerned about mental health sufferers due to an incorrect belief that they may not be responsible for their own actions, judgements and decisions which may or may not affect non sufferers around them especially in the workplace.
Generally speaking anyone who is perceived to be a threat of any kind generally attracts or repels people to that person. The simple dominance, aggression or the power of someone can draw people to respect, admire or worship or vice versa and so on.
Anyone in general everyday life who is a threat both physically or verbally, sociologically, economically, financially and so on will be judged and labelled in order to raise them up or to lower them down.
A lot of people have power and strength in everyday walks of life and this affects others who cannot complete, match or change it but what they can do is judge and label it and verbally vocalise it in gossip and tit-for-tat comments, judgements which goes on every day. This activity empowers people whether they realise it or not and this is about people who are not even mentally ill.
Now when we have mentally ill people in the workplace then all of a sudden people are placing labels and judgements on that person, gossiping and tittering behind their back. Why? Is it because people feel uncomfortable or threatened or have they just found someone to easily pick on or bully due to their perceived weakness?
If a person has any kind of mental health issue which may be considered mild or low-level then they generally keep it quiet for fear of ridicule, embarrassment and especially judgement. Quite rightly so, because people WILL jump on the bandwagon and make negative comments to say the least.
Remember the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Names, labels, judgements, views and opinions wrapped up in a vile package of gossip can destroy people psychologically and emotionally or at least cause simple arguments and fallouts with co-workers in places of employment, neighbourhoods, relationships and families and so the list goes on.
Everybody cares about their appearance, what they look like, make up, clothes, hairstyle, jewellery, body language, car, house, assets and of course the one thing that is going on throughout society is competitive rank and status.
Our evolution depends on our placement in society, our position on the social scale of acceptance or distance.
Everything is about rank and status in life, in all walks of life and that includes every square inch of the planet in every culture and in every species.
Everything is climbing for acceptance and approval and dominance and success and we all live within this network of ego growth and progress in life and if someone finds out you have a mental health issue that they didn’t know about then they are often surprised, shocked or even horrified especially if they relied upon you to be of sound mind and body.
This alone is a damn good reason as to why there is a stigma and has to why people keep their mental health issues quiet. You really don’t need no psychological evaluation or theoretical exploration into the reasons on why except to say people will reject you, they will laugh at you and they will talk about you behind your back and they will make you feel worse.
Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone but there will always be one person wherever you go and that one person’s judgement or behaviour may be a mixture of simply not knowing, outright ignorance or due to bullying tendency or NEED.
In everyday life your rank and status will drop if you disclose any kind of mental health issue because it is in our nature to keep striving and progressing in strength and success and this is a simple undercurrent running within us all.
In other words, revealing mental health issues to people will, if given half the chance have you put you down fast.
People have a very raw and basic need for acceptance and belongingness and revealing or disclosing anything which could rise a concerning eyebrow from those around you is often avoided.
Take for example if you had a serious infectious disease and it killed or made many people sick then a few years later a cure was found, people would still move away from you in actual physicality still with the view that within their mind you can infect them in some way whether it be real or imagined, they will still move away and warn others of the risk. It is in out nature to create stigmas – it is a label to keep us apart from danger or harm from others.
And this is part of the reason why there is a stigma about mental health, simply because people will move away from you if they think you are ill.
The one thing we have in our evolutionary process is to come together and to be accepted and avoid anything that could isolate us.
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