Why Ending Stigma is So Important

Coming from a software engineering background, I’ve always been inspired to get to the root of a problem. Band aid solutions in software engineering are never good. It’s always better to get to the root of the problem. This philosophy has inspired the way I think of mental health within society.
People often say that funding is one of the biggest issues, as without money there can’t be enough help to reach those who need it. Living in a democracy, our best hope for funding, and indeed in influencing the way mental health services are managed and improved, we need to have powerful and sensible control from the very top, in our case the government of the nation in which we live.

Forcing Change

The best way to influence government is via voting. In order to get a majority for certain policies, public opinion needs to reach a majority. Stigma will stop people from speaking up, or will make the general public less supportive of mental health initiatives. People have often told me that stigma is a low priority, however in getting to the root of the majority of problems within mental health services, to me it is the highest priority of all.
In order to end stigma towards mental health we need to increase awareness of mental health, and get people talking. So raising awareness is key. This is similar to how a lot of previous social changes were pushed through, i.e. by removing false beliefs and increasing people’s knowledge.

Preaching to the Converted

I also feel it’s pointless preaching to the converted. So we need to focus our efforts by educating those who may have false ideas. Often social media can act like a silo, i.e. a place where people of similar beliefs all hang out. Therefore, the future of ending stigma is to reach out to people who currently have false ideas about mental health, or maybe don’t know much about it. For example, how many people know that suicide is the leading cause of death in men under 45 in the UK? Hardly any. If people knew, I’m sure there would be more funding in this area, and more empathy towards men who were struggling. The same sort of statistics and personal stories could help women too. I feel that’s why Time to Change is an important project, even though it seems like they are only talking. Please let me know your views in the comments section.
Many thanks
Mike
Copyright MEN HEAL 2016

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