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Stamping Out Mental Health Stigma

13 November 2015 | Updated 01 January 1970

There is a ‘DIY plaster v mental health’ approach by the government argues Bernadette Bruckner, MD of

Recent high profile news articles by the BBC news concerning the inequality in treatment of mental health patients with celebrities like Emma Thompson, Comedian Frank Skinner, presenter Graham Norton, Ruby Wax and Dawn French, has focused attention on this subject.

The stamp out the stigma campaign will no doubt be of enormous benefit to both stamping out the stigma and applying pressure to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to do more.

When you have a minor cut you often reach for a plaster, especially if it is bleeding. The symbolism of the plaster indicates to everyone you are hurt; it matters not how hurt you are, just that that you have injured yourself and the plaster is the visible sign and warning to others, to be careful with the injured area. That insignificant little plaster will often invite an enquiry as to what happened, how are you healing, are you in pain, do you need another plaster.

Unfortunately, mental health cannot have such a plaster, it is a silent invisible ‘hurt’, yet it still needs treatment but there is rarely an outward indication to indicate you are hurt.

The issue with mental health treatments even for minor issues, is that unlike the DIY plaster, mental health treatments are often not used by people because there is no glory, pride or stamp yet that indicates that the person is hurt, getting better or still mentally healthy.

In fact most people will suffer in silence for years and sometimes forever rather than have any trace of a stamp that indicates mental health issue.


Who’s to blame?

The question is why is this, who is a fault for the stigma of mental health, who is promoting it and feeding it, why does it still exist in an age of enlighten public awareness, where four in 10 men in the UK suffer with mental health issues, minor and major and three out of four mentally ill children are receiving no treatment at all.

The answer to this question is not easy to answer; no doubt a variety of answers contribute to the truth. Unless the mental health sufferers themselves can be given the tools and support to come out and stand up and be proud to say “I have a mental health issue and it’s painful and hard to get better but I am getting better”, mental health will always be stigmatised and the sufferers will always be treated as different.

While we wait for the world to get used to the fact that mental health issues are not a stigma, there are methods to get treatment that will afford the sufferers their right to confidentiality and to be able to seek treatment in a modern way that does not interfere with the protection of their character, status, employment, etc. The use of internet therapy is on the increase and they are making great leaps in providing instant accessibility to psychotherapists and counsellors for people with minor and major mental health issues in a way that is compatible with modern day living and affordable.


Campaigning approach

The stigma of mental health must end and a lot is being done to try and do this. The mental health foundation, MIND, is working around the clock with campaigns and publications and we at TOSPS believe that there are indications that the stigma is starting to lose its grip and the attitude of the public has started to change but it is still is tiny and slow.

A recent poll launched on Twitter and Facebook by The one stop psychotherapy shop indicated that the tide is slowly changing and the stigma is slowly diminishing but, it also showed a massive 67% of people still believed that the stigma has not diminish. A greater understanding of mental health issues is beginning to be accepted without stigma by 33% of the public, so the message is getting through.

Mental health suffers are also showing signs in greater numbers of taking steps to get help for their issues without fear of stigma by using internet based counselling to help provide the help they need in real time therefore avoiding the lengthy waiting lists.

A survey done by the Zurich university has shown that internet based counselling is as good as if not better than Practice based therapy. In early 2015 had an average of 230 people visit its site a day looking to take charge of their own mental health treatments. Today that daily average has risen to an average of 2,600 visits, a clear sign that the stigma is dying and a new understanding of mental health issues is already steadily starting to help stamp out the stigma.

However, there is still a long way to go and a lot more government resources are required.

Picture: Bernadette Bruckner – sticking plaster approach to mental health must end

Article written by Cathryn Ellis | Published 13 November 2015


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