The Stigma Encompassing Mental Health
We have heard a lot about the social stigma related to mental illness especially in societies like Pakistan where education and general awareness is not sufficient enough to deal with issues of mental disability. The lifestyle of a person is completely changed after the diagnosis of his mental disease. The disease title that a person receives after diagnosis not only puts him on medication but also labels him as a ‘mental patient’, which subsequently influences his lifestyle, choices, and decisions.
We can easily notice the physical change taking place in the patient’s body after starting treatment and regard it as side effects of the drugs (for instance, weight gain or loss, change in appetite and sleep, etc.). Initially most of the people remain anxious about their treatment, worrying whether they are getting right drugs or not. But they seldom notice the change in their post diagnosis attitude that develops during the treatment. That is something more crucial that needs to be pondered upon, otherwise the treatment will go in vain and the person will only experience the side effects of the drugs instead of its effectiveness.
If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness, the first thing that you need to remind yourself is that you are not your disease.Being a mental patient,you often see your life with the lens of your illness. Subconsciously it becomes your identity that defines you, which is equal to the prejudices that people show for mental patients. They don’t consider you normal because you yourself don’t do that.
I read about the psychological concept Self-fulfilling Prophecies and its social form: Behavioral Confirmation. It says that people’s social expectations lead them to act in a way that causes others to confirm their expectation.It is quite an interesting concept and you can observe it in your daily life experiences.According to the theory of Behavioral Confirmation, people perceive mental patient mad and somehow, the person appears mad to them. Perhaps intentionally or subconsciously you give them hints and clues to get biased and judgmental.
Therefore, I think the discrimination that we see outside is something that sufferers do to themselves by perceiving them as unfortunate and deprived. They close all the doors of happiness to them and by their anti-social attitude; they actually push them into a shell of inferiority complex.
It’s more about your self-image that is reflected through behavior of others. You are perceived as a victim and therefore act as victim. You remain a victim because you get used to the victimized world that you carry within your head. Some people seek sympathy and get disappointed in return, which makes them more negative and vulnerable.
I don’t want to be arrogant, but the reality is the world is not sweet. People are selfish, rude, blunt etc. They act that way to everyone regardless of the physical or mental condition of the person. Being a sensitive person or going through some kind of illness or disability, one may take comments to their heart and get severely hurt.
We create our reality in which we are unfortunate and miserable and helpless. According to mind scientists, our destiny is shaped by our thoughts. We get as per our expectations. Because the thoughts we carry in our head develop our perspective towards things, events and people. They help us look either at the inspiring aspect or the dark side of the same story. And this perception shapes our attitude which is followed by our actions and finally becomes our lifestyle.
If you perceive your reality as being miserable, you will always see yourself a victim and fail in almost every situation in life. You will not be motivated to change things and you feel secured in a refuge of darkness.I know it is hard for a mental patient to look and behave normally in public. It needs great courage to counsel yourself that everything will be fine and you will survive. But it’s worth doing. Sometimes, an illness or a few medications don’t bring much harm to people as their altered attitude and distorted self-image does.
You can change your reality by your will power, faith and determination. Don’t think you have to fight a life-long illness. Rather, live each day by setting a target for a day in the morning and express gratitude and self-encouragement at night. Don’t let your illness define you. It’s a part of your personality and you’re a lot more than your illness.
The choice is yours whether you spend your entire life in ranting about the disability and grieving of misfortune or you make a commitment to yourself to fight it like a warrior.
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