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The Role of Media in Destigmatizing Mental Illness

This paper is aimed at destigmatizing mental illness by supplying the uninformed audience with awareness.
To be able to recognize the various types of mental illness that most patients encounter.
Comprehend the effect of the media on the cause.
Mental Wellbeing is a term used to characterize a person's mental condition in terms of his level of cognition and emotion. This area of research involves the capacity of a person to cope with stress and enjoy life. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as:
“A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities can cope with the normal stresses of life can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

Mental Health measures how an individual can create a well-balanced life. Psychological Resilience is a term used to define a person’s ability to adapt to life challenges such as social disadvantage. It is how you bounce back from negative experiences. Contrary to our belief resilient people have been through rough times in their lives as well but they were able to achieve resiliency. In time, these individuals were able to develop techniques and coping mechanisms that allowed them to deal life crises. Sad to say, there are also people who are having a difficult time attaining psychological resiliency. These are people suffering from Mental health disorders. You may be surprised to know that you see them every day. They are your friends, family, co-worker, neighbor or even your life partner.

Who suffers greatly from Mental Illnesses?

Over a third of people in most countries suffers from mental disorders. The number is growing every day because of environmental influences. From the moment we wake up we start to experience stress. Living in a highly demanding and fast paced life adds up to everyday stresses that challenge our mental health. For example being stuck in traffic on your way to work adds up to your daily challenges especially if you are meeting a deadline or catching an important appointment. A study conducted by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), shows that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US experiences mental illness in a given year.

Millions of people across the globe are suffering and yet society is still in great denial. The worst part is that even the victims are in denial. They don’t entertain the idea that they are suffering from a mental disorder. Mental disorder is like an incurable disease. People suffering from it continues to experience rejection. Corporations, academic institutions, and even the government offer less support and campaign to mental health. Leaders don’t realize that a society consists of people with good mental health creates a prosperous and happy environment. Millions are suffering all over the world and less help is being extended to these victims. Until when do we close our doors and deal with this issue?

A Closer Look at How Society Views Mental Disorder

Approximately 450 million people across the globe suffer from mental disorder. People suffering from any forms of mental disorders experienced a great deal of discrimination. It’s normal for human beings to protect oneself and people with this condition are perceived to be violent and hard to deal with. Which is why they find it difficult to look for jobs, maintain long term relationship and live decently. Discrimination and stigma can worsen a person’s mental health problems. They more they experience rejection the more the are susceptible in harming themselves and those around them.

Mainstream media often portray people with mental disorders as criminals and evil. Media feed us with information every day and its impact in this battle is huge. The moment we open our devices, television, and radio we are bombarded with information. We are somehow being programmed on how we see things. These factors greatly affect how we see people with mental disorders. As a result, these people find it hard to cope and recover.

Defining Mental Illness

There are two types of mental disorder: Neuroses and Psychoses.

1. Neuroses – Based on fears and anxiety. People who suffer from great stresses in their lives and they feel like they cannot overcome it can develop this type of mental disorder.

2. Psychoses – This is the extreme type. Perceived as ‘madness and insanity’. In order to recover patients will need treatment from Psychiatrists. Psychoses include manic depression and schizophrenia.

Classifying Mental Disorders

• Anxiety Disorder – Everyone of us gets to be anxious every one and a while but if your anxiety interferes with your daily life, then it’s considered as Anxiety Disorder. It may sound light but this type is a serious mental illness. Patients suffering from Anxiety Disorder live a fearful life and it’s disastrous most of the time.

• Mood Disorder- Defined as sustained sadness. Examples of mood disorders are despair, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.

• Psychotic Disorder – Includes schizophrenia and Delusional disorder. Patients live in their own beliefs and delusions.

• Personality Disorders- Patients with personality disorders find it hard to deal other people. They are unable to adjust to the demands of life. Examples of this type are schizoids, narcissists, and paranoids.

• Eating disorder – Irregular eating disorders. These people are too concern or no concern with their body size and shape. Binge eaters are those who finds comfort in food. An opposite to anorexia and bulimia.

The Battle Inside and Outside

Mentioned above are the most common types of mental disorder experienced by regular people around you. You may not know but the next person seating beside you is suffering and battling from any of these disorders. Keeping it contained within themselves is a hard enough to do. Imagine being bullied and rejected because of this condition. A person with mental illness is struggling to win two battles: the one within himself and the one within the society.

It is normal for people to protect oneself when faced with danger and it is a given fact that people with mental disorders tend to be dangerous. Most of the time they cannot control their emotions. In the worst case scenario, these people get defensive and violent and it is a normal reaction as individuals with the sound mind to repel and cover. Yes, it is true that protecting oneself is the best thing to do when being faced with a violent and abusive situation. But protecting should be a defense not a form of attack. In the society we are living in today, people with mental disorders are often being rejected and locked up. They are stripped off of their opportunity to become better. It becomes their label for life. Their talents and skills are suddenly flushed down the drain. They are removed from their jobs and society labels them as criminals and evil. The worst part of it all is, even their own families reject them .

As human beings, it’s time for us to open our minds and understand that Mental Illness is another form of illness that needs treatment. It’s time to shift the gears and give them the attention and care they need. It’s time to educate the younger generation that there’s this other side of the story that’s real and needs utmost care and attention just like any other illnesses. This is the right time to be aware and what the best way to spread awareness? It’s through the media!

The Media’s Impact in Destigmatizing Mental Illness

Before we dig deep into the media's role and its impact in this battle, let’s understand first what media really is. Media is defined as the main mass communication. Media comes in a different format. It has evolved over time too. Today we consider print media (books, newspapers, magazines), television, movies, video games, devices (phones, tablets, PCs), and the Internet as different forms of medias. Each of these platforms relays different messages every day both advantageous and disadvantageous to our mental health. Politics have been utilizing media to convey their messages. Corporations and different organizations have maneuvered the media as well to gain advantage among their competition. The media may have created a huge impact in spreading messages but it’s also harming the young minds.

There are two sides of the coin. Because media is available to everyone and messages are released without a filter, we can only expect two results. It can be beneficial to the young minds or harmful to their innocence. During the past decade the social media, for example, created a profound change in the way we communicate. It brings us closer but it also divides us. And during these times responsible use of media is often times neglected.

We may not able to control others to be responsible in using the media. There will always be people who will use it to their advantage but we can always control what we see. If media is pulling you back instead of lifting you up, then it’s time to stop. Remember, your mental health is only dependent on you. In order to attain Psychological Resilience, one must be a master of his own mind.

Sources:

Dr. Majumdar, Manisha, Health and Medicine (Mental Health and Community Health);

https://www.bookrix.com/_ebook-dr-manisha-majumdar-de-health-medicine/

Mental Health by Number, https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

Psychological Resillience, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_resilience , Accessed 8 May 2017.

Stigma and Discrimination, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination

What is Mental Health, https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health/

August 09, 2021

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