For years mental health has had a stigma surrounding for as long as people have discovered that psychological problems are a thing. Folks would often prevent their loved ones from visiting a professional for the fear that they might be considered as mental, and may never be accepted by society.
Long before, during the medieval times, mental health disorders like schizophrenia, anxiety, bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder meant that the person had been bewitched and a townsperson would be dragged out of their homes and burnt at stake without any physical evidence. The person suffering from the mental illness would either suffer the same fate as the “witch” or would be subjected to a regimen of herbs and smoke to lure the evil out of the person.
Then came the infamous mental asylums which were a nightmare for all those already living inside their head. Their despicable living conditions and treatment of patients have been long documented as more and more of these sprout up from the corners of the world. Records of cold bursts of showers and lobotomy have long been recorded with the readers reading on in horror of how the doctors tried to “extract the evil from the root”. Slowly the mental asylums were becoming a constitution to be feared rather than one sent to for treatment. What was supposed to be considered a safe haven to protect those suffering turned into a torture chamber for many. They were, thankfully, shut down when news of their inhumane practices went around. However, that did not stop people from disregarding mental illness as a non-serious thing regardless of its growing numbers. People would usually just politely avoid the topic or look for more physical evidence to blame on. Many people were not even aware that these things could happen. Others would believe that a lot of these “illnesses” were self-inflicted. For example, depression was considered as when a person just refuses to themselves be happy. Remember the phrase, “Why are you sad? Just be happy”. Yes, that mind-numbing bottle of misconceptions that those who were suffering were hit with on a constant basis.
There were many well-known celebrities like Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, who visibly suffered from the illness, however, the public would turn a blind eye to them. However, taking on from a few of the brave celebrities of that time, many more actors and actresses started to come forth with their mental health struggles. Not only that, aggressive researches were prompted towards the several disorders in order to properly understand their root cause and come to a solution. Mental illness was being given the priority status that it deserved so much. Participants after participants were evaluated and treated. Other than that, a sudden interest in the field of psychology also helped the cause by a mile. People started to understand what mental health illness was about and what their root causes could be.
Though the mental health issues had started to gain an empathetic momentum, few still knew of the struggles that one faced, and so the ignorance was still rampant. People with mental illness were still afraid to come out with it, so that not to be branded as an “oddball”. This is where social media came in. Social media is what really set off the storm of mental health awareness. Now with a public platform available, with millions of people ready to take in everything that you have to say, people were becoming more and bolder with their cause. Campaigns were started by independent users or companies to raise awareness through mental health in general, or towards one in particular, the ALS challenge assisted in gathering donations for the cause and celebrities would often come out discussing their issues as well. The internet allowed for another wave of celebrities to emerge “YouTubers”. Though people loved and idolized the likes of George Clooney and Tom Cruise, they felt closer to these people who looked more like them creating different content for their knowledge and entertainment. When these people came out with their own mental health struggles, people who were going through the same issues as them were able to accept that they had a problem to confront and solve. There are times that the human brain is not able to comprehend that it has a deep-seated problem present in their subconscious or maybe does not want to. So to be able to identify with the troublesome symptoms helps it come to terms with the problem at hand.
Though the awareness of the problem is at it its peak at the moment, there is a lot more research to be done on its solutions. People are actually talking about the problem today which is a good sign. Though the brain is pretty powerful, it can be overwhelmed by the complexities of the world that we live in. It usually adheres to the “stick to what you know” rule, and so when something more complex comes along, it perceives it as danger or a threat and turns on its defense mechanisms.
The good news here is that the brain is not entirely inflexible. It is constantly updating and adapting the world around it, and so when it sees more and more people being open about their issues, it becomes encouraged to work on its own as well. Their real trick is not being aware of the problem. It is about bringing in behavioral changes that would lead to the eradication of the problem. The reason for this because we might have the abstract understanding of it all, but being able to switch up the instinctive reactions is difficult. This means that people might be aware that mental health problems are a thing, but they might not want to deal with it for they fear that it would be expensive, time-consuming, and taxing. With the rise of mental health awareness, there needs to be a rise in the importance of seeking solutions as well.