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Fear an obstacle to overcoming mental illness and associated stigma

I agree that many people, youth included, have the tendency to give unfair labels to persons struggling with mental health issues (“‘Crazy, weird, scary’: Survey unveils negative labels youths associate with mental illness”; March 12).

Fear an obstacle to overcoming mental illness and associated stigma

Illustration photo: Trevor Gerzen/Unsplash.com

Raymond Anthony Fernando

I agree that many people, youth included, have the tendency to give unfair labels to persons struggling with mental health issues (“‘Crazy, weird, scary’: Survey unveils negative labels youths associate with mental illness”; March 12).

This is largely due to one’s lack of knowledge and education on mental illness. People fear what they don’t understand.

There are patients, young and old, who have sought treatment and are on the road to recovery, with some of them having the courage to become staunch advocates to raise greater awareness on mental illness. Through their actions, they can also help to change mindsets.

The labels given to patients add to their suffering because these reinforce the stigma associated with mental illness and keep them from seeking help.

As it is, among Asians in general, most will not admit that their mental health is under siege because of negative misconceptions, while some may not even know that they have a mental condition due to a lack of awareness.

For those who suffer in silence, fear is the main stumbling block to recovery. So they end up suppressing their own unhappiness, emotional pain, worries and sorrow.

Due to the lack of support from family members, colleagues or even employers, people struggling with mental illness tend to have very low self-esteem. They fear that they are not good enough, have low self-confidence and, if left unchecked, these can lead to dire consequences. They become increasingly sensitive to people’s comments and behaviour. In worse-case scenarios, they lose the will to live.

Managing people with depression and those with other types of mental illnesses requires a lot of understanding, patience and compassion, to help sufferers get through daily life and to recovery.

The Institute of Mental Health has been working very hard to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness through public education, roping in doctors, patients and caregivers to be a part of it. There are also books that speak of the amazing recovery of patients with mental illness.

I encourage one and all to be involved in efforts to dispel the notions that mental health sufferers are “weak” or “not trying hard enough to get better”, and to be more supportive, because we never know when we may become mentally ill or have someone we love become a sufferer at some point in our lives.

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