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Correspondence: Mental health stigma – in or out?
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Correspondence: Mental health stigma – in or out?

We need to create an attitude of acceptance among the peoples of Australia and the Commonwealth to reduce stigma about mental health, writes Amanda McClintock, an 18-year-old from Queensland, Australia.

For as long as anyone can remember, mental health has carried a unique stigma. This can primarily be attributed to general stereotypes about people who have mental health problems and the ways in which they are portrayed.

It is still rare to see someone in the media who has depression, however it is quite common for schizophrenics and people with multiple personality disorder to be shown as being “crazy”.

Crime shows and horror movies in particular seem to have developed a knack for representing these disorders in a way that pits the audience against them, hence the stigma in the long run.

Despite this, it seems that our society is slowly coming around to the idea of mental health affecting a large percentage of our population. Indeed 20% of people will experience depression in some form over the course of their lives. As a result mental health is no longer seen as a “crazy person’s disease”.

Recently, in Australia , conditions like depression and anxiety have been brought into the spotlight through advertising and awareness raising programmes. Take for instance, Beyond Blue, the national depression initiative endorsed by various celebrities.

Beyond Blue has been making a push for raising awareness of mental health issues through its advertising.

Using the lives of ordinary people – working classes, mothers and teenagers – it is drawing more attention to the fact that these issues can affect anyone and everyone, not just the select few who are considered to have a few loose screws.

With this push for awareness comes an obvious change in our attitudes due to a higher level of exposure to the issue.

At the other end, celebrities and public figures are becoming more open about sharing their personal experiences.

Jessica Rowe, an Australian Channel 9 news presenter, recently shared her battle with post-natal depression. By becoming a Beyond Blue ambassador she has paved the way for fellow public figures to do the same.

During an interview in May of 2010 Rowe stated that, “If I could say ‘this has happened to me and this is how I dealt with it’, if that can help just one other woman, one other family, then I know that I’ve done the right thing”. This is just one example of how one person can be willing to make a difference.

Ten years ago, we would never have seen any advertising or endorsement of mental health issues in Australia, but today we see it on a weekly basis and, although a lot is being done to help all those who struggle with mental health, more needs to be done.

Somehow, we need to create an attitude of acceptance among the peoples of Australia, the Commonwealth and the world in order to reduce stigma about mental health. We might do this is through more attention being drawn to the issue or by having more real life stories to let others know that mental health problems don’t mean that you are not normal.

Whatever it is, each of us can do our bit to help. Stop using mental health as a joke and just be that little bit more sensitive towards other people. At the end of the day, being able to accept and respect everybody for who they are is the most important thing.

After all, it takes all kinds to make a world.

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