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Mental illness stigma

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by Ms Roselle Solomon

Social Worker at Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre

“I better off be called a thief than be called crazy.”

“I don’t trust dem people dey nah.”

“Nothing do he, is lazy, he lazy!”

Stigma, simply put is the negative attitude developed by one population for another. It is usually generated through socialization; these negative attitudes stem mostly from fear of what isn’t the “norm”.

Therefore stigma and by extension, discrimination, is one’s way of coping with what they perceive as different or a threat to their way of life. Stigma is the foundation for labelling persons and groups. This thinking can be harmful, as it can create a “veil of shame” for those who are thought of as different.

Stigma and discrimination permeate all levels: individuals (people living with mental illnesses), communities (families, villages, groups involved in mental wellness) and systems (structures and policies). St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), like any other country, is not exempt from the issues related to this phenomenon.

Here in SVG, there are individuals with serious mental illnesses who struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disorders. Also, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from the misconceptions about mental illness (stigma). As a consequence, people with mental illness are robbed of employment, quality health care and proper advocacy, which can result in poor treatment outcomes.

Stigma and discrimination prevent individuals and their families from seeking help. It is certainly true that people with mental illnesses are taught to feel flawed; it is perpetuated through the use of language, “crazy etc”, telling persons that what is happening to their brain is “a family curse or that they’re playing tricks”. Crucial in this discussion is the role of the family in recovery and rehabilitation of someone living with a mental illness, but often this relationship is soured due to the individual’s history of psychological distress and the burden that is maybe left on family members. The uncertainty of not knowing when a loved one will get ill and also caring for them can be frustrating and scary.

People living with mental illnesses encounter stigma and discrimination in every corner of their existence, such as:

o Many law enforcement officials lack the skills needed to identify symptoms and deal with someone who has a psychological disorder such Depression, Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder – (De-escalation techniques).

o People who live with a mental illness are cautious to disclose their condition at work. Persons are terminated from their jobs or are blatantly not hired because they have a mental illness.

o Health care professionals are always hesitant to administer care, treatment and supportive services and do not take mental health as seriously as they should. They are more likely to engage in care strategies with patients who are dealing with a chronic physical illness.

Ultimately, “Mental health is a shared responsibility”. It’s for all persons to be educated and enact the change for a healthier Vincy!

Email: mhcsvg@gmail.com

Contact #458-4240

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