Portfolio of Hope

People have different social and cultural attitudes to most things in life, and mental illness is certainly no exception to this.

The way someone talks about their mental health is often determined by their culture which influences their beliefs and attitudes towards themselves, and others, a great deal. For example, someone who comes from a culture where mental illness is seen as a ’taboo’ (something not to be spoken about), is likely to avoid admitting to themselves that they are struggling with it. Instead, they may choose to ignore their symptoms and refrain from seeking help.

People who feel ashamed for admitting their struggles will be unlikely to do so by not telling their family, friends, and community about their problems, therefore meaning they are unable/unwilling to access any support.

The shame felt by certain cultures is driven by stigma, discrimination, and stereotyping, not just on behalf of society, but on behalf of families, friends, and employers.

Certain cultures will ‘banish’ people with mental health problems from their lives, regardless of how they know each other, simply because the stereotypical portrayal of such people tells them that they are ‘dangerous’ and ‘not to be trusted.’ This, of course, could not be further from the truth, but the cultural ideals that some people have are very much fixed and changing them would take a lot of unlearning and re-educating, a process that a lot of people are unwilling to even consider, let alone actively partake in.

Being made to feel like an ‘outsider’ with a lack of purpose and no sense of belonging in an already incredibly hard to navigate world can make people with mental health problems face an extremely difficult life. They may struggle to find work due to their anxieties around other people’s perceptions of their mental illness. Unemployment often leads to financial insecurity which could result in one’s ability to find a decent house being an unlikely feat. Furthermore, feeling excluded from mainstream society can make building relationships and friendships difficult due to a lack of self-esteem.

All the factors I have discussed in this essay, from lacking self-esteem to feeling shameful for struggling, can build up and ultimately result in the worsening of an individual’s mental health problems. Combined with the lack of confidence felt, they are likely to delay getting help and treatment to put them on their road to recovery, therefore trapping them in a vicious, hard to escape cycle of mental illness.

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