#BukanGila: Ignorance — what drives mental health stigma

OCT 19 — One disturbing trend on local social media is people who know nothing about mental illness spouting all sorts of silliness.

"People who say they're depressed aren't really depressed. Real depressed people wouldn't go on social media."

"People who say they're suicidal aren't really suicidal, they just want attention."

The worst bit is these aren't doctors; these aren't people with actual mental disorders, but simply "observations."

Not helpful, people.

There really isn't an excuse, in this day and age, to not know how to use Google. Here, let me help you. Try Googling "suicide prevention" and "suicide statistics."

Mental illness is not fake drama, it's not people wanting attention or validation, it's just illness. Say you're physically wounded, people will ask if you need to go the hospital. Mention chronic sadness or low mood and it's all "why can't you be more positive?" or "other people have it much worse."

The thing is, people with mental illness do not have a responsibility to educate you about your ignorance. Nor do they have an obligation to deal with your prejudices. That is all on you.

While advocates for mental illness do all they can to raise awareness about it, you can't blame them nor those who are suffering for not educating the ignorant. For instance, It's not up to the racially oppressed to change the mindset of bigots — the problem is with the bigots.

Yes, it is exhausting trying to stay informed but there is no excuse for spouting falsehoods and untruths. Even Googling itself is something that can be problematic as a lot of people search for results that confirm their own biases instead of looking for neutral sources, or at the very least varied ones.

This is the simple truth: mental illness is hard. Mental illness is real. Mental illness is not simple and there is not just one mental illness, with different sorts of afflictions and experiences in the mix.

What we need more of is compassion, and a little more effort made to listen. If you don't know, ask. Don't make up your own judgements based merely on flawed observations that are coloured both by ignorance and one's own prejudices.

Life is hard enough for those with mental disorders; they don't need to deal with people who know nothing pretending they know everything about the condition. Maybe start by being a little bit kinder and a lot less judgemental, because, Lord knows, there's enough suffering going around that we don't have to add to that by being hateful to anyone at all.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

Related Articles

Up Next