Hiding Behind a Secret: The Stigma of the Mentally Ill
Many people are often physically ill and seek medical attention if they feel it is necessary, without hesitation. Doctors prescribe medications for everything from a common cold to yeast infections, and while the illness which was acquired may not come up often in terms of conversation, it is still seen as a form of normalcy. Everyone has had a cold, or everyone may have had chicken pox, and these kinds of illnesses seem to be an often treatable, if an inconvenient illness. People have the illness and recover from it, almost as healthy as before.
The mentally ill, however; are often not seen by many as being treatable in the same manner. The mentally ill have had names given to them such as “psycho”, “crazy”, or “nuts”, while there are who are physically sick are not called by names such as “sicko”, “cough machine”, or “bacteria boy”. Why is this the case? Is there really much of a difference in illnesses? A person who has an illness is just ill, correct? Unfortunately, not with every illness, especially if a person has a mental illness.
Many mentally ill citizens feel the need to hide behind their diseases, without others knowing, while those who are known as having a physical disease, where although it is uncomfortable, no one objects to a person telling them they are physically sick. For example, a person will say, “I have a cold,” or a person who has the flu will say, “I have the flu.” Those who have mental illnesses, however; do not run around and state, “Look at me, I have major depressive disorder!” or “I am so obsessive-compulsive” because many know the negative connotation that comes with having such an illness.
Why is there a stigma with mentally ill but not the physically ill?
A stigma is defined as something about a person that other people may perceive negatively. Surely with this perception of mental illness being negative (especially in comparison to other illnesses), there are many who are not possibly allowed or able to seek employment or have a social life due to their illness. Those with mental illnesses can suffer from low self-esteem, as the train of thought is if no one finds them “normal,” then they are probably not normal. Of course, those who have a normal physical illness do not have people viewing them as not normal at all.
Mental illness can and does affect everyone in the world. Even though a person may not realize it, there can be a mentally ill person—either seeking treatment or not seeking treatment—beside them on the streets or sitting by them at work. The sufferers of mental illness are actually more common than are thought of. Many with mental illnesses are forced out on the streets by those who do not understand them. However it may seem, mental illness or at least a touch of mental illness or a closely related illness, such as being blue or being worrisome can be present in any person at any time.
For instance, how many people have felt blue, or been saddened and overburdened with grief at a loved one’s death? Are there many out there who overuse and abuse substances in order to eliminate depressive feelings and thoughts of isolation? There are those who can drink and use illegal drugs, do they use these medications as a form of escaping from sadness? There can be a heavy price for all to pay for mental illness and the stigma associated with it. Clients pay more for medications, treatments, and therapies to help solve their problems when many times the answer may not be there, or may not be exactly what is given to them at that moment. Also, with general practitioners (GP) or the regular medical doctor prescribing medications, it also can be possible that a GP may prescribe some medication that she has not as much of an idea how it will react to a patient as a psychologist or psychiatrist would, because she is trying to help alleviate symptoms that she may not know that much about. General Practitioners study medicine and treatments, but these are more of a physical kind, not the psychological kind needed by those who suffer from mental illnesses.
Citizens without mental illnesses pay more because they may have to pay for repairs to their homes, automobiles or property, or for lawyers or legal representation because someone with a mental illness may have committed a crime or had an episode. This can be possible only because they did not receive their medication that they needed or were not treated properly with the medication, treatments, or therapies that they would need, and these could help them enrich their lives and help to lift their spirits, helping them to feel better.