Who do you want your child to be…

Written By: Rabia Nazir

One of my close friends who is a primary school teacher often shares innocent stories of her students as a part of our ‘how was the day?’ routine. A couple of weeks ago, she mentioned that one of the most intelligent students in her class has been missing school for a week and that he is suffering from anxiety and panic attacks! Yes, you read it right…. When parents looked for a reason, it did not take long and it was alarming. The 8 year old boy reluctantly revealed his fear of not stand first in the class this term and the poor soul was stressed over that he would not be able to fulfill his parents’ dream of becoming a doctor.

This is one of those overlooked incidences that are affecting the mental health of school going children. The pressure to be the best student in the class and to meet the expectations of parents is particularly seen in the smarter ones. We can see schools of every bread including government school, public schools, elite schools, and then deeni-dunyawi taleem hybrid schools. Keeping the financial toll aside, it is still quite a challenge for parents to choose which type of school they should send their kids to. And thanks to the craze of becoming doctor/engineer, young minds are being stuffed with the idea that success in life is associated with taking up a certain profession. In today’s blog, I want to probe what are the factors behind choosing a profession for your child;

Influential Standing in the Society:

So almost every Pakistani parent dreams that his child becomes a doctor. In fact, doctor here does not represent a profession but rather a symbolic professional who is intellectually superior, influential, and highly regarded by the society. So taking the above definition a little further we can include engineers, lawyers, financial analysts, and so on. The thing to which most of the parent are acting blind is that every child has his own talents and mind capacity. All they care about is getting appraisals from their social circle by presenting a ‘trophy child’.

Forcing them to study a subject against their free-will in which they are not interested may make them unsatisfied with their lives. I can recollect from childhood memories that many of my friends in school were eager to become a doctor but later could not get into the medical college and ended up becoming a house wives. I do not oppose here becoming a house wife if it is a choice but what I mean is that they lost their motivation so badly that they totally gave up their aspirations for a career.

Financial Incentives:

This factor is considered more important for boys as they are supposed to take up major financial responsibilities. Having earned a degree in engineering, information technology, or accountancy degree implies getting handsome salaries in homeland as well as landing a job in a developed foreign country. This opens up the ventures for making more money and securing a lavish life style. This is the point where most of the personal aspirations and dreams lose the battle.

Finding the perfect match:

Doctor marrying another doctor is no wonder and it is almost true in all of the professions in question. This factor is more important for girls. According to the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) record, 70% of the medical students are females whereas only 23% of registered doctors are females. It adds a considerable financial loss on the part of government funds spent on the subsidized medical education on each student and you can well imagine the number if more 50% of the current medical students choose to sit at home for the rest of their lives. It paints a disappointing picture that a medical degree for many girls is no more than winning a ‘hot ticket’ in match-making market. The dream of ‘doctor daughter-in-law’ has become an obsession among mothers looking for a decent wife for their sons. I will touch this topic in detail in a separate blog.

As matters of fact, it all comes down to our fragile society with its roots knitted in an unhealthy competition in every walk of life. The very similar pressure is trickling down to shape up such a mind-set in young parents where they essentially want their kids to be the best. It not only puts a delicate mind into stress but the child is also more likely to feel isolated and lonely as he feels the competition all the time with other children in the school and even within the family. He might end up having no friends! This discussion brings me to some questions which I would like to put out there for the parents:

  1. Why every child is expected to be the best in studies, sports, and extra-curricular. It is absolutely perfect to inspire and let them thrive to achieve the better and better in life but why standing first in exam or getting into a certain profession is a matter of life and death? We must realize that experiencing failures offer more lessons than successes. It is normal to fail sometimes; coping up with a failure is a learning too.
  • What could be the consequences if you as a parent just let your child choose who he wants to be? Let’s say if he wants to be an artist or a historian or a football player or any unconventional profession, what is wrong with it? In my sanity, career must be chosen, if not fully at least partially, out of personal interests and not from what everyone else expects of your child.

I would leave the stage open with a plea to young parents who have school going kids that please do not burden your children with unrealistic expectations. Schools are not factories to produce future professionals only and you, as a parent, are not here to turn your child into ‘trophy’. Let your child be a happy, healthy, and free soul who could be a valuable addition to the society and humanity.

We really need to evaluate our own values!

(P.S: The content is meant to provoke a positive discussion. Apologies in advance if anyone finds it offensive. I personally do have many doctor friends, both male and female, and they are amazing people one could have in life. )

Proposal from HE, who must not be Remembered


Written by: Fozia Tahir for anonymous!

Sending a marriage proposal in Pakistan is like playing darts at home elsewhere.

  1. Give it a go, if it works very well, after all it was meant to be…
  2. If it doesn’t work, God forbid!! how could she ever say NO!!! (that characterless *************** -put as many stars as you can imagine-)

As one of my cousins had once asked me, “what is wrong with our boy?”. Now, why must I look for a fault in your boy to say no. I want to say no and it is my right to say no (FULL STOP). Who gives so many people the licence to ask me why I said no? especially when our beloved religion gives women the right to marry as well as other marital rights (see previous articles in the blog about marriage, dowry and divorce). But very often in such cases culture card is played to endorse oppression of baby girls. 

Funnily enough, when a women wants to say yes to a proposal, no further discussion is allowed on the topic. On the other hand when she wants to say no, the whole family sits her down and schools her on how amazing the boy and the family is and what benefits the matrimony could bring for Indo-Pak relationship (quite literally!).

I wish I could write more about the art, science and philosophy of marriage proposals in Pakistan but this post is not meant for that. It is actually based on a true story, where a boy, who had harassed a little girl at a very young age, decades later sent her a proposal and was very cross at getting ‘NO’ for an answer. I hope that this can shake people to be mindful about staying away from silly and irresponsible behaviour at a younger age and being mature enough when they ask for a girls hand later in their lives.

I am not saying that men don’t have problems when it comes to relationships and proposals, but the scale at which young girls and women suffer in this regard is incomparable to those of our fellow brethren, so I am really sorry that I will completely ignore your problems in this case.

The story is as under

‘Once upon a time there was a young girl in a place that allowed her to be wild and free. Despite many a lectures from her mother on why she should not go to her friends place and why she must be accompanied with an elder when leaving home, she did what she liked, which was to play outside with the kids from her street and come back home hours later. One day she was walking in the street alone and she encountered her cousin who was only a year or two older than hers. He took advantage of the opportunity and touched her every now and then while walking with her. Her mouth dried up. No one had told her what to do, if she ever encountered a situation like this. She wanted to shout but couldn’t so she ended up dodging him, running away until she got to her door.  The touching did not stop in the mean time. She went in, without making any noise and raised no further discussion on the topic. That boy and his face meant nothing to her. He deserved no emotion from her. Hate seemed too honourable for a little boy of his sort. That young cousin was dead, right there and right then for her. 

Decades later, her mother called her to tell her that she has a proposal. when she took his name, her ears deafened for a while. Seconds later, she asked her mother to say no as soon as possible without any further explanation. Fortunately, her parents weren’t too keen on the boy either so she got away with this one. The boy and his mother were cross about this (ofcourse). She has forgotten her place and how dare she say no to one of the finest boys in the family. 

She hadn’t forgotten her place. In reality He had forgotten his. How dare he send that proposal? did his mouth not burn with wildest of fire when he took her holy name with his filthy mouth? does he even remember what he had done to this girl or has he become holy and pious himself?

The biggest question,

Are women too emotional and worry too much about molestation and harassment while the accused man forgets it soon after committing it?

and, why must women forget such monsters? is there room for forgiveness in this case?

This doesn’t end here. This is a never ending problem of our society and we don’t really discuss it in organisations or at homes. Changing mindsets has become a must for our society and we have observed that education alone is not enough to change mindsets as the region that this lady is from claims to have highest literacy rate and an open mindset and so on…

 

P.s. I cried while writing this and I hope that it touches your hearts the way it has touched mine. 

P.P.s. Momma dears..Please Raise careful daughters and respectful sons!

 

 

The Deed of Divorce: An Open Letter to Society

Written By: Rabia Nazir

(This letter is a continuation of the previous one with a different addressee)

Dear People,

I hope that something, if not everything, is definitely going great in your life. Have you ever imagined someone for whom, at this very moment, nothing is going great in life? They are breathing the same air as you are. They may appear alright but may be going through low self-esteem and anxiety. They are around you; your college-mate 5 years back, the girl next doors, or your housemaid. Sometimes they cannot answer all of your questions about their life choices for some strange reasons. Who are they? The women for whom marital relationships have not worked out the way it have worked for the most of you. What are they afraid of? Your rejection! How could you possibly help? By NOT judging!

Let us assume that you were walking on a busy road. You met someone seeming reasonable on the road and soon you became kind of friends with them. After a while you started getting along quite well and you both decided to keep walking together for the rest of journey. On the way, you had to stop by for a moment on a shop and you decided to leave some of your stuff with your new friend. You returned quickly from the shop. Lo and Behold! Your friend ran away with your stuff. You have been deceived and robbed. What would you call it? An accident! Was it your fault? Not really! Or may be ‘Yes’ because you probably trusted the wrong person.

Dear Society, the person who has been robbed is ‘the divorced woman’, the robber is their ‘faulty life partner’, and the stuff robbed is ‘trust’. You are probably lucky enough not be robbed yet. I want to ask you what could possibly be the fault of the person who has been robbed. And come on! Have you never ever made a mistake in making friends?? What I’m trying to point out here is that you are no one to point a finger towards such a woman for whom you have no idea what she has been through. She is ‘a victim’ NOT ‘a suspected criminal’. She has been robbed of her self-worth. She needs acceptance, support, and respect.

I know you show respect to her suffering but do you treat them as you treat your own daughter or sister? You hunt ‘Mr. Perfect Right’ for them but a divorcee is pushed to settle with ‘Mr. Second-Hand’. Let’s go back to ‘why did the divorce happen?’ in the first place. To live with self-respect! People, you need to realize that if a divorcee had to ‘choose to suffer’, she would have not certainly won herself this title. If she has been brave enough to embrace this title, she does deserve ‘Mr. Perfect Right’ like your own girls.

I am ending this letter with a quote I read somewhere; it says

‘When you judge someone, it does not show who they are but it shows who you are’.

I am looking forward to who you are..

From,

Someone who breathes the same air as you!

Fair, Lovely and Politically Incorrect

By: Fozia Tahir

Having lived in the UK for five years I had almost forgotten the importance of fair skin in Pakistan. I recently attended a musical event in my hometown in the north of Pakistan where majority of the population has lighter skin tone. The Host who of course happened to be from the south said, ‘the crowd was full of goray chittay people literally meaning, ‘fair skinned (beautiful) people’. The crowd is so used to such comments that no eyebrows were raised and no offence was taken. In the west however, the same host would have had to apologise soon after giving such a statement.

Why did no one question it?

Why were those who are not as fair skinned as most not offended?

Where exactly does this mind-set come from?

and why must we make peace with it?

We have been blaming colonialism and American influence on Pakistan for so many things but perhaps our mind-set is our own problem. Many politically incorrect things, including the obsession with fair skin, seems to have percolated deep down our thought process. I will not quote many research articles and figures here today but blame our media industry and the people involved in it for continuously reinforcing all the false ideas and poor mind-set that we have long fallen prey to.

Those who know Pakistan well would also know that television is the biggest form of entertainment for majority of the population residing in the urban as well as rural areas of Pakistan. People love to spend their afternoons and evenings in front of their TV. I wanted to see what was going on, on TV in terms of obsession with fair skin. I realised soon after that almost all the skin care products sell the very concept of getting lighter skin tone. Such as, 

Urdu: Hum larkiyon ka face fresh hona chahiye

Translation: Us, girls should have a fresh face

You shouldn’t second guess the name of the product. It is indeed called face fresh

Fair and lovely has long used women with dark skin tone as their models and shown their skin tone improve with the use of their product over time as an example.  This is 21st century and I think it’s about time that fair and lovely changes the name for the new lines it is creating.

What’s funnier is that some of these creams don’t display the products that they contain. E.g. I looked at the packaging of a famous whitening cream called gypsy amazing cream that only said at the front that it contains jojoba oil but no further ingredients were given at the back. It is obvious that the products contain bleach and few major ingredients should be placed at the back of the packing. Its not really my problem as I wouldn’t use the product unless I am conducting some kind of research experiment on the product but those who use it deserve to know what must the mystery magic box contain.  

Fair is not good and kaala (dark skin) is not bad and we need to break such stereotypes especially popular products like Fair and lovely whose consumers seem unaffected by such form of political incorrectness.  

The root of all our problems could be lack of education but many formally educated people also believe in the importance of fair skin. In fact, in Pakistan, fair skin is a requirement in the proposal checklist for a girl from the male side.

Women invest more time and money on their physical appearances and almost no time on personality growth..

Solution: Change aka Tabdeeli?

Change is coming. The newer generation is ready to fight all the stereotypes but we are still shackled by many concepts the like of fair is beautiful.

we have a long long long way to go until we speak about issues like pay gap and equal pay for equal work etc nevertheless we should not give up on our fights to break stereotypes.

Good Luck to us for that…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66542607@N07/6266540192

The Deed of Divorce; An Open Letter

Written By: Rabia Nazir

[To whom it may concern]

My Dear Woman,

I understand that this letter may not find you in the best of your spirits. I cannot feel the same what you are feeling right now but I can imagine the thoughts and illusions crossing your mind and heart every single minute. I, certainly, am not in the capacity to change anything for you but I am writing this letter to open a new door for you to what could possibly be different from this moment.

It is easier said than done that ‘ITS OK! You will be fine’. It is not going to be OK anytime soon but you will be fine once you change your beliefs about yourself. Yes, it’s all about how you see yourself. People often fail to see that they could find themselves too standing in a similar situation where staying or leaving in a worthless marriage is equally painful. Unfortunately, unlike marriage, divorce is neither a pre-planned nor a happy occasion. You must have gone through depression and frequent episodes of nightmares before reaching the decision of ending the relationship. It has not been easy, you see. However, I am glad that you chose your self-respect and dignity over keeping up the appearances in the culture of silent suffering. People around you might be feeling sorry. Leave them to fidget their minds around why, what, and how. The only important thing to remember is that pity is for helpless and you are brave. You have shown strength in the face of the norms that you can stand-up for yourself.

I am so proud of you for this!

Divorce is an unwelcoming phenomenon is our culture and people often lose the decency to respect the limits of someone’s body and mind while desperate to ‘dig the matter out’. So, my lovely, how should you respond? We always hear that love is unconditional and that’s what you are going to witness in coming days. Be it your parent, your colleague, you friend, or your neighbor, the people who believed in you will continue to believe in you no matter what… because  they are in love with your persona and one failed relationship cannot change it. I don’t know if you have many loving people around you or not but unconditional love of one human being is enough and more than enough. Choose a circle for yourself all over again and this time the criterion is solely unconditional love and mutual respect. Let me tell you that even if you don’t have anyone, you have yourself. Love yourself! Success, health, fortune, and happiness; you have a share in whatever is available in the world outside your window.

Heyy! Go and get your share; you are not coming to this world a second time. Are you???

You know what is the biggest loss in divorce? A flawless public image? No! A home or car? No! Virginity? No! It is not the relationship which breaks; it is the ‘self-trust’ which breaks. My lady, keep reminding yourself that being knocked down is an accident but staying down is a choice. Work in little steps towards rebuilding the trust in relationships and stick to the mantra that you are as worthy of a happy relationship as everyone else around you. Beware that there will be times when you will dragged down to ‘settle-in’ for whatever is available. You might also cross paths with trespassers who will try to entertain themselves because they will perceive you as a vulnerable person but you are not my dear. You can only outsmart such people if you keep a sorted-head about relationship goals. You will be surprised to see that how clarity of mind will lead your eyes towards the right path. Say ‘thanks’ to them anyway and keep going. You are not that attractive ornament available on 70% discount in the market but you have a full-price to be paid and you deserve to be invested in. By the way, what is so wrong with having a life beyond relationships? I don’t mind but , meanwhile, there is so much to do out there.

Heyy! Get up and make yourself useful. You never know somebody somewhere may need you more than you need anyone…..

It is a dark phase indeed but ‘it shall too pass’. My friend, it does make sense to allow yourself to experience disappointment, sadness, and tears at times. However, do not make these emotions permanent residents of your heart. Whatever the reason may be and whatever the consequences may be, you are now at the end of darkness and at the same time you could be at the beginning of light, if you choose.

Heyy! I am looking forward for your return as self-content and above all a happy human being open to love and trust. Missing your smiley and sparkly eyes!

Love from,

Your Future Self

 

Disclaimer: The author felt that the material presented in the article does not need references from literature as no fact and figures has been included as such.

Violence against women and girls

 

An eighteen-year-old woman chronically raped by her father, brother and uncles since she was eight.
A nineteen-year-old girl having chronic pelvic and genital pain secondary to genital mutilation.
A twelve-year-old female child being sold and married off to a forty two year old man in her village.
A twenty-eight-year old woman physically beaten by her husband regularly when he is intoxicated.
A forty–ear old woman who was kidnapped and sold to her former husband when she was nineteen.

These are just examples of women and female children whom I have come into contact with through my clinical practice, outreach work and in my social life. I have found these women in the emergency rooms, in psychiatric facilities, in the genitourinary medicine & contraception clinics. I have found these women not only as a doctor in the corridors of hospitals – I have found these women in the lanes of my life.

All of these women, as you may have guessed by now, have been subject to violence. Violence against women takes place in several forms – physical violence by intimate partners, sexual harassment, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, trafficking, child marriages etc.

Although there is an increased awareness of the violence suffered by women and female children, we still live in a society where violence is horrifically rampant. We live in a world where a third of the countries have NOT outlawed domestic violence. We live in a world where 1 in 7 girls are married in Central and West Africa before they are 15 years of age. We live in a world where 1 in 2 women were killed by their partners and/or families in 2012. We live in a country where up to a third of adolescent women describe their first sexual experience as rape/sexual abuse. We live in a world where thirty-seven countries exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married or marry the victim after the event1.

The purpose of this article is to educate and discuss the nature of violence experienced by women, to understand the extent of the problem, and finally, what to expect from our health professionals and our governments.

The vast majority of the statistics and information is taken from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations websites, which I implore you to read. All of the factual information, which is present in this article, from the aforementioned institutions is listed at the end.

Background and definitions

Violence against women is a global public health problem and a violation of human rights. The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life2 .

A 2013 analysis conduct by WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South Africa Medical Research Council, used existing data from over 80 countries and found that worldwide, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence3.

Risk factors4

The risk factors for women experiencing intimate partner violence include low education, exposure to mothers being abused, abuse during childhood, attitudes accepting violence, male privilege and women’s subordinate status.

Equally, men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatments, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, alcohol dependence, unequal gender norms, attitudes accepting violence and privilege over women.

Factors associated with sexual violence perpetration include beliefs in family honour, sexual purity, ideologies of male sexual entitlement and weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.

Impacts on health, children and socioeconomics

Physical and sexual violence against women has led to physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health issues of victims. Some of these include unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and other gynaecological problems. Specifically, in pregnancies, the risks include miscarriage, pre-term labour and the babies being at significant risks related to low birth weight.

Women exposed to partner violence as twice as likely to experience depression; almost twice as likely to have alcohol use disorders; 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhoea and 16% more likely to have a low birth weight baby. Furthermore, 42% of women who have experienced physical/sexual violence at the hands of a partner have experienced further injuries as a result and 38% of all murders of women, globally, were committed by their intimate partners1,3.

Children who witness such violence can display behavioural and emotional disturbances as well as being at risk of being perpetrators of violence themselves. Intimate partner violence has also been linked with higher rates of infant and child morbidity and mortality3.

The social and economic costs include women being at risk of suffering isolation, not being able to work, losing wages, not participating in regular activities and being unable to care for their children.

Prevention and response5

There are a number of guidelines as to how health professionals can train, prepare and respond for issues in violence against women. These include:

  1. Providing women centred care – professionals offering first-line support when violence is disclosed i.e. empathy, non-judgemental attitude, privacy, confidentiality and access to relevant services.
  2. Identifying and caring for survivors of intimate partner violence – Professionals should ask about exposure to violence with the aim to improve diagnosis, identification and subsequent care. First line clinical care should include emergency contraception, STI and HIV with relevant follow up.
  3. Mandatory reporting of intimate partner violence to the police is NOT recommended. Professionals should offer support to report the incident if the woman chooses. It is important to know the legal framework of reporting in each state/country. Usually if an incident is to be reported, the professionals should NOT carry out an intimate examination.
  4. Training of healthcare providers – Adequate history taking, risk management, investigations and planning management should be done at a pre-qualification level.
  5. Healthcare policy and provision – Care for women experience violence and sexual assault should be, where possible, integrated into existing health services as opposed to a stand alone service. In the UK, this can include presenting to a General Practice, GUM services and if required, A&E.

Prevention is a powerful tool and evidence base from high-income countries has suggested that advocacy and counselling improve access to services for victims and are effective in reducing violence. In low resource countries, prevention strategies that have shown some effectivity include programs that empower women economically and socially through a combination of microfinance and skills training related to gender equality; that promote communication and relationship skills within couples and communities; transform harmful gender and social norms through education6.

Legislation is another key aspect, which can help achieve change. There is a need to implement policies that promote gender equality by ending discrimination against women in marriage, divorce and custody laws; ending discrimination in inheritance laws; improving women’s access to employment and developing national policies to address violence against women5,6.

References and further reading

1. United Nations. Declaration on the elimination of violence against women. New York : UN, 1993.

2. United Nations. Fact and figures: Ending violence against women. http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

3. World Health Organisation. Global and regional estimates of violence against women. Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/9789241564625/en/

4. World Health Organisation. Violence against women and children: facts. http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women

5. World Health Organisation. Primary prevention of intimate-partner violence and sexual violence: Background paper for WHO expert meeting May 2–3, 2007
6. World Health Organisation. Infographics: Violence against women infographic. http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/VAW_infographic.pdf

Written by: Dr Huma R Khan

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Mental health, society and stigma.

Author: Huma R Khan

The extent of the issue

The premise of this article is to discuss mental health, common mental health issues, the issues of stigma and to signpost to some important resources and organisations.

Mental health problems are a significant contributor to the overall disease burden worldwide, with major depression being the second leading cause.

  1. 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year.
  2. Mental health and behaviour illnesses are estimated to cause over 40 million years of disability in 20-29 year olds.
  3. In Britain alone, between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people with mental health problems committed suicide.
  4. 1 in 15 has made a suicide attempt in their life.
  5. 75% of young people with a mental health treatment are NOT receiving treatment.
  6. The average wait for effective treatment is 10 years1-3.

The World Health Organisation definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Mental health in this regard refers to our psychological and emotional wellbeing.

There are a number of mental health problems and they are multifaceted in their aetiology. For example, they can be caused by a combination of biological factors (e.g. genes, brain chemistry), life experiences (e.g. trauma, abuse) and/or family history of mental health problems4 .

Physical and mental health are also not two separate entities as poor physical health increases your risk of developing mental health problems. Individuals with mental health problems have shown worse trends in morbidity and mortality.

Mental health problems can include depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress, learning and eating disorders as well as substance misuse and addiction. The discussion of these is beyond the remit of this article, and as such, we shall focus on the stigmatisation of people with mental health problems.

Society and Stigma

Despite the vast numbers of people affected by mental health problems, there is a huge social stigma and discrimination that is experienced. This stigma crosses barriers of countries, cultures and various creeds. Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems face discrimination and statistically we know that these groups face issues with finding work, being in a steady relationship, having adequate housing and being socially included in mainstream society2.

Mental health stigma can be divided into two types;

  1. social stigma – prejudiced attitudes and discrimination directed towards those with a mental health problem
  2. self stigma – the internalisation by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination, leading to feelings of shame and guilt5 .

Stigma has three important aspects to it; stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination6 .

Strategies for changing public stigma

Broadly speaking, three approaches have been proposed to deal with social stigma; protest, education and contact7.

  1. Protest includes challenging the inaccurate and hostile depictions of mental health, which can be found in media and public opinion.
  2. Education is the provision of information to individuals and groups in order to maximise their understanding and lessen negative stereotypes. A number of studies have shown that educational strategies have led to improved attitudes and education in the likelihood of discriminating8 .
  3. Contact includes people with mental health disorders meeting those without, especially in the context of a social environment e.g. work. Research has shown that such contact events have led to decreased endorsement of psychiatric stigma.

What can YOU do?

Educate yourself!

Mental health issues are extremely common and unfortunately, so is the prejudice and discrimination against the people who are affected. The first step is always to educate yourself, and then to educate others. Knowledge is a powerful tool, which can not only help break down stigma, but also helps empower groups of people to come forward and seek the help they need, without the fear of perceptions. Below are some useful resources, which provide with statistics, have educational material and signpost to relevant groups for professionals, patients and the general public.

Resources

  1. Time to change.
    https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
    Social movement working to raise awareness of and ending stigma associated with mental health.
  2. Mind
    https://www.mind.org.uk/
    Mental health charity in England, which is working to provide information and advice to those with mental health problems.
  3. Mental Health Foundation
    http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
    Improving lives of those with mental health problems and/or learning difficulties.
  4. The centre for mental health
    http://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/
    Organisation working to improve quality of life for those with mental health problems. A wealth of information and support links.
  5. Depression Alliance
    http://www.depressionalliance.org/
    Information and support to those affected by depression.
  6. Relate
    http://www.relate.org.uk/
    Offering advice, relationship counselling, workshops and meditation.
  7. Anxiety UK
    https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/
    Charity supporting those living with anxiety disorders including information provision, support and 1:1 therapy.

References

  1. Time to change. About mental health. https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/about-mental-health.
  2. Mental Health Foundation. Mental health statistics: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-most-common-mental-health-problems.
  3. Centre for Mental Health, UK. https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/the-decade-of-delay.
  4. World Health Organisation. Constitution of the World Health Organisation as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June 1946.
  5. Corrigan PW. Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry. 2002 Feb 1(1): 16-20.
  6. Corrigan PW. Mental health stigma as social attribution: implications for research methods and attitude change. Clin Psychol Sci Pract.2000;7:48–67.
  7. Allport GW. The nature of prejudice. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books
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