A passionate young soon-to-be medical doctor with interest in writing and #HealthForAll

Defying The Stigma: Mental Health Matters

Photo credit: Izzat Syahmi (Singapore, 2019)

In 2018, the World Health Organization key facts show that the burden of mental disorders continues to grow to significant impacts in countries all around the world. It is shown that the number of people with depression is estimated to be 300 million globally (which is equivalent to 4,4% of the world's population), followed by people with bipolar affective disorder which is estimated to be around 60 million, people with dementia is estimated to be 50 million, while schizophrenia and other psychoses are affecting around 23 million people worldwide.

Despite the significant contribution of mental health towards the Global Burden of Disease, mental health problems are arguably the most undervalued aspect of public health worldwide. Common mental disorders lead to abundant loss of health and function, these losses are shown in the estimates of Years Lived with Disability (YLD). There is a significant widening of "Mental Health Treatment Gap"; where more than 70 percent of people with mental disorders in need of mental health services lack access to care. Society's perception of people with mental disorders is one of the contributing factors, where there is stigma within the society to mental disorders and people who are affected by them. Study have shown evidence that suggesting prejudice and discrimination against people with mental disorders are factors that delay treatment.

Stigma is defined as stereotypes or negative views attributed to a person or groups of people when their characteristics or behaviors are viewed as different from or inferior to societal norms (Dudley as cited in Ahmedani, 2011). Social stigma, in which a large fraction of society believe the people with the stigmatized condition are less equal or are part of an inferior group; for example, calling someone crazy as a form of a condescending comment, assuming people with mental health conditions as incapable, incompetent or dangerous, or how often the media portrays people who are affected by mental disorders with falsely applied stereotypes. According to Rössler (2016), "media coverage of mental disorders has been consistently negative and imprecise".

Social stigma can influence the person with mental health conditions to feel guilty, unconfident and inadequate to other people. Social stigma, when internalized by the person with the condition, is called self-stigma. Self-stigma plays a vital role in one's self-esteem and self-efficacy, according to Corrigan as cited in Ahmedani (2011) it can result in an alteration of behavior which depends on one's coping mechanism. For example, the change in behavior can be seen as an embarrassment, or anger, or isolation from the outside world. Self-stigma can also be the cause of treatment delay and acted as a barrier in achieving life goals. Corrigan and Rao (2012) explain the consequence of self-stigma as a "Why Try" Effect in which a person may avoid situations where public disrespect is anticipated.

Another form of stigma is the health-professional stigma. The theory about this stigma is relatively limited, although according to Nordt et al (2006) as cited in Ahmedani (2011), health-professional is not very different from the general public on their desire to distance themselves from individuals with mental health conditions. Nordt et al's finding are parallel to the finding of Volmer et al (2008) as cited in Ahmedani (2011). Health professional stigma may arise because of recurrent dealing with clients in the most disturbed phase of mental illness (Horsfall et al, 2010), burnout or having the same problem or have relatives/family with similar problems (Ahmedani, 2011).

The stigma of mental health is the main obstacle to provide care to people who are affected by mental health disorders. Stigma will mark those who are ill, their caretakers (family) even the institution providing care for the affected. The stigma will affect the people, the community, the decision makers to see people affected by mental illness with low regard and resulting in hesitancy to invest resources into mental health care (Sartorius, 2007). Mental health matters and should be treated in importance like physical health. People should care for people with mental health conditions the way they care for people with physical illness and should not look down at any sick people, because if they could choose, they'd choose not to be sick.

Things we can do to defying the stigma are listed as follows:

  1. Read and gain understanding about mental health, what it is, why it matters, who can be affected by it, how to deal with it. The information is everywhere, maybe reading this and this will help.
  2. Look at people with mental illness as people not as a disease. Grow more empathy. Restrain your tongue from speaking ill about their conditions. 
  3. When you have a mental health condition, do not be afraid of coming out; talk to your family about your condition, talk to your best friend, talk to professional. It's okay for people to know. It's okay to get treatment, in fact, it's your right to be treated. The stigma floating around your condition is not your fault, it is a product of social injustice and an error of society. You have struggles just like everyone else.
  4. When you are a health-professional remember that all patients are equal and it's your duty to provide the best of care.
  5. Treat people like people.


  1. Bagus banget, dan bermanfaat! Aku jadi tau banyak hal tentang stigma masyarakat kita masih banyak yg salah ya tentang kesehatan jiwa? Seharusnya mereka lebih sering mebaca hal-hal begini dari pada konten yg tidak bermanfaat di internet

    1. Bener banget, Sid, ternyata di masyarakat luas masih banyak yang salah paham. Semoga kita bisa membantu meluruskan presepsi masyarakat tentang kesehatan jiwa ya!

  2. bermanfaat, rajin-rajin nulis kaya gini yaa! ��

    1. Heeel, makasih banyak sudah mampir ke blog Zhifa dan sudah baca! iyaa insyaAllah, semoga bisa rajin nulis konten2 yg bermanfaat ya :)

  3. Zhifaaa, I absolutely adore your writing, sangat bermanfaat :)


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