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Mental Health Awareness: How does it expose and increase stigma?

Mental health nowadays has been taken for granted and lightly regardless of how critical the illness is. According to New Straits Times by Arumugam, one-third of adults in Malaysia are grappling with mental health issues, whether they realize it or not. A survey conducted last year by Deputy director-general of health, Datuk Dr. Lokman Hakim Sulaiman revealed that 4.2 million out of 14.4 million Malaysians aged 16 and above suffered from mental issues. Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of these) and associated with distress and problems functioning in social, work, or family activities. Anxiety, trauma, depression, and schizophrenia is commonly known as a psychological disorder. Social isolation, experiencing discrimination and even poverty could be the core causes of mental disorders. This could be the reason why individual keeps illness hidden including the fear of stigma, fear of pity, and fear of burdening others. Stigma can be defined by the Cambridge dictionary as the act of treating someone or something unfairly by publicly disapproving of them. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. Therefore, the initiative to overcome this by being exposed to mental health awareness. Oxford dictionary describes exposure as the state of having no protection from something harmful. However, the misconception of mental health awareness could be viewed differently from two main perspectives which are social and media perspectives. How does mental health awareness plays role in each perspective? Is it exposure or stigmatization? This paper will argue the opinion, triggering causes, effects, and solutions from each of the perspectives.

With regard to what is shared, society is primarily concerned with a set of relationships between its members. (Moris, G.,2006). Prevention and exposure programs have been shown to result in considerable economic savings for society (Rutz et al., 1992). Community awareness of mental health increases the chances for early intervention, which can result in a fast recovery. Therefore, community awareness of mental health needs to be prioritized in order to reduce the increasing number of mental disorders victims. Mental health can now be seen as an illness and we should not make it less important than heart attack, blood pressure, or cancer. Society can play their roles by simply talking to their close ones like family and friends and be attentive to their change of behavior which might lead to common symptoms of mental illness disorder. Health promotion can be shared on social media like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter which helps bring attention to these causes and supports the movement. For a more significant impact, society also can consider joining recognized organizations at the local or national level. Organizations that we can rely on in Malaysia are the Mental Illness Awareness And Support Association (MIASA) and MENTARI Malaysia. These organizations provide experts that were trained to help them with the problem, including ways to cope with stress like support groups and prescribing medication. To conclude, with even an amount of adequate cautionary by society, mental health awareness can bring gracious benefits to those who suffer from mental illness. In the context of society, Malaysians should be more alert and supportive to help those in need by exposing their awareness of mental health.

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One of the initial dilemmas facing researchers and recognized organizations in promoting mental health awareness is conceptualizing the goals and boundaries to develop the prevention and promotion of mental health awareness. However, this prevention and promotion initiative has overlapping boundaries and may elicit more stigma in society. As stated by Thornicrof in the British Journal of Psychiatry 2007, stigma occurs when society labels someone as tainted or less desirable and stigma involves three elements which are ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination. From the social perspective, the risk of promoting mental health awareness is stigmatization that takes place within the family, relatives, and friends. Stigma will lead individuals who are in distress and agonize to keep at arm’s length from seeking help for their mental health problem due to embarrassment or fear of being shunned or rejected. Schizophrenia Bulletin mentioned that another labeling factor that may influence the stigma of the mental patient is the type of institution in which the patient was treated by stereotyping the hospitalization and counseling as the place where ‘crazy’ people are put away. In addition, another threat of stigma is the reduction of mental health specialists. The stigma associated with mental disorders can result in fewer people choosing to work in the mental health field. Eighty-two percent of Saudi Arabian students and 52 percent of Romanian students surveyed felt that if a student expresses interest in psychiatry, he or she risks being seen by others as odd, peculiar, or neurotic. This will lead to a large proportion of students had been discouraged from pursuing a career in psychiatry by their teachers, family, friends, and fellow students. In a nutshell, a way to combat stigma is by initiating education campaigns. This campaign will be focused on specific groups, for example, teachers, the police, or medical students. Also, Malaysia should set England’s effort as an example for launching ‘Time to Change, the largest mental health anti-stigma campaign in 2009. Instead of stigmatizing individual who suffers the mental illness, society should learn to accept they’re different and give them a new breath to recover from the disorder. From this, stigma could be diminished and an individual who suffers would never be hurt again.

The Statistics Portal shows that in 2019, it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe, up from 2.46 billion in 2017. This proves that media have a strong effect to create life’s standards beyond expectations. To ensure that mental health awareness can be spread worldwide, the media could be the medium to portray awareness as incredibly powerful in educating and influencing the public. People might be hard to accept peculiar things in the first place but will slowly learn to help and accept the individual who needs support to fight against the mental disorder. Mental Health Awareness Month is one of the extraneous platforms which use its online community to address issues that millions struggle with at every beat of their hearts. One of the online campaigns is the #HereForYou campaign which has been launched by Instagram. The purpose of this campaign is to help users to have pillars of strength by finding resources and support online and offline. The one-minute spot features Instagram users talking about their past struggles with eating disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts. However, rather than hiring social influencers that have hundreds of thousands of followers, mental health awareness can be viral at one’s fingertips. Gary Morris has said in Health Promotion that government should conduct many workshops for media professionals on portraying mental health issues in the media. Last but not least, a much more practical guide should be provided on mental health in the media for trainee journalists to ensure that journalists could promote mental health awareness in manner ways before posting it on social media. By this, any disturbance of sensitivity issues on mental illness issues could be avoided.

#heathcare #medical #medicalcare #pharmaceuticals #healthcareprofessional #nurses #healthprofessionals

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