Mental health Stigma: A hindrance for help and Compassion

Recently I was on a flight to Delhi, although it wasn’t my first time I never clicked on the flight attendant button above my head. It could be that I never had a requirement or perhaps I lacked confidence and courage to do a simple regular task of communicating with other human being. But this time I was thirsty, It was clear that I needed to rehydrate. I remember in retrospect the details of the thoughts happened in my mind before clicking the button till the stewardess attended. Firstly, I took time to convince and encourage myself to face reality and not avoid it by rationalizing it. Secondly, I rehearsed the lines that I planned to ask her, this part of the process was annoying as I knew i wasn’t like others and was scared and had to put efforts to face the situation. When I finally encountered her, I could notice I was trying to act normal but fumbled a little which was hardly noticeable by the stewardess, yet I felt bad for fumbling even after mustering the courage and for lacking social skills.

This is one of the awkward situations that I face in my life regularly and never share the thoughts that happen in background with. In the above situation, I could have been calm and conveyed my thoughts with confidence, but that was far from reality as I felt anxious with a racing heart. Being under confident with a self defeating internal thoughts and having a poor self concept and self efficacy since my childhood made me my own enemy. These experiences are voiceless but only painfully felt inside which would sometimes take me into a negative spiral of self loathing. These experiences were uncomfortable so I often find myself looking for answers that would fix flaws in my personality and look towards social media and self help books. In popular knowledge the world is divided into two polarities like Extroverts and Introverts. It could be that most of them who consider themselves to be Introverts aren’t really what they think they are but are likely facing troubles with social anxiety or shy due to lack of confidence. When I look at ‘motivational videos’ in Youtube, most of them doesn’t recognize this aspect and suggest to toughen up and stop being fragile. Although the motivation offered in the videos makes me feel like a warrior going on a fight ignoring all the pain, It’s affect was very short and unsustainable. Maybe somebody must have found these videos or similar advices in self help books to be life changing but not me.

The lack of psychosocial education regarding acceptance and uniqueness of one’s feelings, makes us conform to societal standards and reinforce them over others. The stigma on mental health issues discourages people approaching for help and looks at the issue in a bad light- Social anxiety can be considered and mocked as cowardice while depression can be considered as drama. The process of change becomes harsh and pushy as a result of stigma. This shouldn’t be the case when behavioral change is possible through self compassion combined with incremental progress through assistance of a professional mental health practitioner. The absence of stigma and normalizing mental health issues from young age by parents and schools would allow us to function well and contributes to a fulfilling life.

– Anonymous

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