An individual diagnosed with a mental health condition, no matter how minor in severity, faces an uphill battle against the ignorance of society. The failure of the masses to consider mental illnesses as treatable conditions in otherwise “normal” people brands mental health patients as disturbed and emotionally unbalanced, as broken people who cannot be restored to any level of appropriate function. The stigma leaves the mental health patient feeling less than human, isolated, and filled with self-doubt as to their place in society.
The media plays a large role in promoting the image of an average mental health patient as a danger to society, from horror movies to network news stories, the depiction of mental health patients is usually that of a violent psychopath. The subtle nuances of mental illness that affects millions of citizens is rarely raised in discussion, only the extraordinarily violent episodes of homicidal rage that result in tragedy are exposed. These incidents cast a negative light on all individuals seeking mental health treatment as possible perpetrators of violent crime, and society views people with mental health issues as somewhat less than human.
Upon exposure as being a mental health patient, an individual immediately loses credibility and stature in any number of areas. Professionally, peers approach a mental health patient with caution and tend to keep them at arms length. The position of a mental health patient within a professional community will usually digress to one of a lesser stature, mainly because of the perceived imbalance in general of all mental health patients. Socially, acquaintances may either be condescending or avoid a mental health patient in totality, because of ignorance or discomfort in communicating with a mental health patient.
The legal system, including Courts and Police agencies, tend to view individuals with mental health issues as unreliable complainants, and concerns of mental health patients seem of less importance in receiving due process. In the area of health care, physical complaints of mental health patients are first viewed as possible psychiatric issues rather than actual physical illnesses, and treatment may be delayed or dismissed.
For these reasons and many others, mental health patients would be wise to keep their conditions and treatments personal, sharing them only when absolutely necessary. The stigma of a mental health diagnosis can only gain a negative momentum with mass exposure, and until society views mental health concerns from a vantage point of enlightenment a patient is best served keeping the information personal.