We all have our bad days, moments we do not feel at our best. Maybe it’s because of the fight we had with our friends, a boss who yelled at us or a heartbreaking split up with our loved ones. We all have bad days that come and go. But what if I told you that not everyone has just a “bad day”? What if I told you that some of us feel like that from the moment we wake up until the we fall asleep, and NOT only for a day, but for weeks, for months, or even years.
What if I told you that there are at least 65 thousand people in our country, at least 450 million people all around the world suffering from some type of mental illness, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. It is a global problem that deeply affects not only the individuals who suffer from it, but our communities and the society as a whole.
However, if it is such a huge problem, how come it often doesn't seem like one?
There is a huge stigma around mental disorders in our society. Mainly because people do not get enough information on what it actually feels to have it, and are left to face and understand it on their own, which leads to the construction of many stereotypes. For instance, a lot of people think that having OCD means just being too organised, or that people who seem happy can’t be suffering from depression. When society doesn’t have a proper understanding of how individuals with mental conditions see the world, it becomes hard for most of us to be around people suffering from such problems. It's not because we don’t want to help, it is most likely because we don’t really know how to act. Should we feel sad? Should we bring it up in a conversation? Should we just ignore it? However, is running an answer to all of our problems? If, statistically, 1 in 4 people suffer from some kind of mental disorder, should we really choose not to care?
We possess a voice and a power to effect change, and yet we fail to speak out and bond together as equals.
Not facing this problem worsens the situation, as not only the society finds it hard to help, understand or even be around these individuals, but those in need don't feel like a part of the society too. If we can accept our current state, we can begin to move forward. But how can an individual accept his state so easily when society doesn't? How can individuals care about themselves if everyone around them seems to neglect the problems they face? The fear of being “ill” leads to people trying to hide or normalize their own diseases. Therefore, in many cases, when you are afraid to face your own mental illness, you try to live a normal life like everyone else around you - you want to fit in, you want to feel “normal”. However, this way you fail to give yourself a chance to recover and live your life to the fullest.
We have to start treating mental health as social justice and human rights issue, because that is what it is. 50% of people in the Global North and 80% of people living in the South with severe mental health disorders receiving no treatment shows that current health systems are failing at an extreme level. We need an appropriate, community-based care and holistic solutions that take social, economic, and cultural factors into account. We also need to broaden our understanding of mental health and the symptoms that are shown by the ones who are suffering.
But most importantly, we need to stop treating those who are ill like they are okay, stop neglecting this problem like it is okay. The longer we proceed to ignore it, the bigger the stigma will get and the more often people with severe illnesses will be afraid to speak up.
We possess a voice and a power to effect change and it is the time we use it for a good cause.