MY PROFESSION -
COMMUNITY PSYCHIATRIC NURSE

Sudha Chavda. Hillingdon

Stigma


In this country, the days when 'mad' people were sent to asylums and treated like criminals or animals are, thankfully, long past. So why is there still so much stigma and prejudice attached to mental illness today? The main reason is that we don't understand it, and we probably don't want to understand it because we're afraid. But ignorance and fear are closely related. Perhaps if we can be brave enough to try and understand what mental distress is all about, we'll find that it isn't so terrible after all. Moreover, what we learn may help us cope better with our own emotional problems, as well as making us more tolerant of other people. People are generally more reluctant to talk about emotional feelings than physical feelings-whether their own, or other people's. We can usually cope quite easily if a family member has physical illness. But what if that same person is crying for no apparent reason, or not speaking, or being bad-tempered or aggressive, or otherwise behaving differently from normal? Then we often feel embarrassed or awkward, afraid or helpless. We may try hard at first to be sympathetic, to comfort and reassure the person, but then feel cross and become impatient when they seem unable or unwilling to explain what's troubling them. We may also feel secretly guilty, as if we're personally to blame in some way. It often seems much easier and safer to ignore the problem, hoping it will just go away. Everyone has their ups and downs, and most people manage to live through the 'downs' more or less successfully. Often we can see what it is that's making us feel nervous or miserable, for most external events or changes in our lives affect our 'inner worlds' too. It's not surprising that we're upset when we lose our job, when someone close to us dies, when a relationship breaks up, or when we have to move to a strange town or country. It takes time to face up to the new situation and readjust. We may feel so afraid, angry or guilty that our anxiety or depression lasts for a considerable time, but most of us do recover, eventually, even though we may never forget the experience or regain our 'old selves' completely. However, some people, for various reasons, need a lot more help and support to get over emotional upsets. It's important to remember that different people experience and react to the same event in all sorts of different ways. One of the hardest things is to try and put us into someone else's shoes and to see the world as it appears to them, without applying explanations and remedies based on our experience. It's useless to say to a seriously depressed person, 'Pull yourself together!' or 'Look on the bright side', because in that person's own view of things, there's nothing to pull together, and no bright side.


Mental Illness Stigma Cause of mental illness Neuroses and psychoses Referrals
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