The fear of the unknown is a powerful and dangerous human response, leading to mistreatment and deep rooted stigmas. Centuries ago, the mentally ill were exorcised and beaten in an attempt to withdraw the evil spirit responsible for their afflictions. Fortunately, society has come a long way in the understanding of mental illness and such barbaric practices are a thing of the past. Despite this, mental health is still largely stigmatised and even today, many people regard the mentally ill to be violent and dangerous.
This misconception is very heavily influenced by the media and therefore care must be taken to ensure the appropriate portrayal of mental illness. Despite this, The Sun has recently caused uproar amongst mental health campaigners with its careless front page headline on Monday 7th October entitled “1,200 killed by mental patients”. This misleading and damaging caption only exacerbates the stigma situation and according to the Mental Health Foundation, 90% of those suffering with a mental health problem say that stigma and discrimination negatively affect their lives. The secondary effect of the stigma is that those who are undiagnosed tend to be too ashamed to admit they have a problem and their illness goes untreated. People should not suffer in silence as a result of ignorant misconceptions.
So why do people still have such sheltered knowledge regarding this topic when as many as 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life? Isn’t society being the paranoid one?