For fear of stigmatization: Mentally ill people often do not seek help

For fear of stigma
Mentally ill people often do not seek help

People with mental illness are often seen as unreliable or unstable. For many of those affected, such prejudices and disadvantages are worse than the disease itself and prevent possible treatments.

Stigmatization and discrimination against the mentally ill is perceived by many of those affected as worse than the disease itself, an international group of 50 experts reported on the occasion of Mental Health Day in the medical journal “The Lancet”. The panel calls for an end to stigma and discrimination against these people.

The experts write that stigma and discrimination lead to exclusion of people from society and denial of basic human rights. This includes the opportunity for employment and education, as well as access to medical care, including psychological care.

The experts believe that governments, employers, healthcare providers, schools and the media have a special responsibility. In total, the experts make eight recommendations to tackle the problems. These include the decriminalization of suicide, psychological training for health professionals, and the development of guidelines for the proper portrayal of mental health in the media. The most effective way to end stigma is to bring people with and without mental illness together, experts say.

Especially difficult for young people

According to the report, an estimated one billion people worldwide are affected by a mental illness, equivalent to one in eight people. In the group of 10 to 19-year-olds this is even every seventh.

Children and young people are particularly hard hit by the consequences of stigma, says co-author Zeinab Hijazi, who works for the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF. “We know that adolescents with mental illness may be dissuaded from seeking help if they fear stigma and misunderstanding from their families, teachers and peers,” she said in a Lancet statement.

According to the experts, urgency is especially needed because the corona pandemic has led to an increase in mental illness. “Urgent action is needed to prevent these people from experiencing the potentially serious consequences of stigma and discrimination,” said Charlene Sunkel. The founder and executive director of the Global Mental Health Peer Network (GMHPN) also contributed to the report.

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