Dear Future President,
In the world that we live in, we face many problems. Some seem to be more prominent than others, which is okay, but we are starting to undermine other severe issues. Mental health stigma is one of those issues. Mental health stigma is when someone uses another person’s mental illness to label and discriminate against them. In order to end this predicament, I need your help. You need to be the voice of the unheard and mistreated.
I know what you may be thinking- “There are terrorists out there killing people everyday, and you want me to worry about making people with mental illnesses feel better about themselves”. No, I don’t want you to “ease their sorrows”, I want you to make a change. I want you to show the country that people with mental illnesses aren’t deranged fools. According to UsaToday(1), 32% of people view depression as “a sign of bad character”. Depression, along with any mental illness is not a flaw in character, but as stated by Clinical-Depression(2), “depression is often caused by chemical imbalance in the brain”. It isn’t anyone's fault that they have to suffer from a mental disorder. It is, however, someone’s fault if they choose to discriminate against those with mental disorders. People don’t have a right to hate or surmise, especially if they don’t know anything about the topic. We need to make sure people know more about something before they can even begin to judge it, but I’ll go into that later. First, I want to let you know how big of an issue mental health stigma really is.
How common is the problem of stigma? The World Health Organization(3) claims that “one in four people in the world will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives”. They further go on to explain that “around 450 million people suffer from such conditions”. That is a big number. On top of that, I found on mentalhealth.wa.gov.au(4) a shocking statistic that shows “three out of four people with a mental illness report experiences with stigma”. That is unacceptable. It is your job as president to protect your people. I’m not saying the pain of these people suffering from the effects of stigma is all your fault. I am however saying that it will all fall down to you if you don’t do something to end it.
What are the effects of stigma? It isn’t just as simple as making people “feel bad”. I found from WHO(5), that people view those with mental illnesses “untreatable” and that they are “incapable of making decisions”. This type of thinking can lead to “abuse, rejection and isolation and exclude people from health care or support”. I also know, that stigma can cause mortification and make people feel ashamed to have a mental illness. Future President, think about it. Do you want to run a country where there are people who are ashamed of something that they don’t even have power over?
Hopefully by now you are fully aware of the problem of mental health stigma. I know that you can’t just snap your fingers and make everything better, or make a law to illegalize discrimination against those with mental disorders. What we need to do as a country is better educate people on mental health. It is such a simple fix that it would just be ignorant not to do it. When people think of mental illnesses, they tend to jump to what they know- someone with depression kills someone, etc. Even mentalhealth.wa.gov.au(4) says that people partake in stigmatizing because of “misrepresentation in the media”. Not only in television shows but the news as well. If we properly teach people about mental disorders, stigma, and the effects of it, there are bound to be some changes. I know that not everyone can reform, some people are just discriminatory and that’s how the world works. I do, however, know that we can change some people and get them to ameliorate. A little education is all it takes. So, Future President, I am putting my faith in you to end this issue.
(1) Szabo, Liz. "Cost of Not Caring: Stigma Set in Stone." Cost of Not Caring. USA TODAY, 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/25/stigma-of-mental-illness/9875351/>.
(2) Tyrrell, Mark, and Roger Elliott. "Medical Causes of Depression." Medical Causes of Depression. Clinical Depression.co.uk, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.clinical-depression.co.uk/dlp/depression-information/medical-causes-of-depression/>.
(3) Communications, NMH. "WHO | Mental Disorders Affect One in Four People."World Health Report. World Health Organization, 4 Oct. 2001. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/>.
(4) "What Is Stigma." What Is Stigma. Government of Western Australia Mental Health Commision, 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.mentalhealth.wa.gov.au/mental_illness_and_health/mh_stigma.aspx>.
(5) Kantontoka, Sylvester. "10 Facts on Mental Health." 10 Facts on Mental Health. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/mental_health_facts/en/index5.html>.