using abusive, derogatory words on mentally-ill patients will make them more vulnerable to relapse and worsen other expected progressive outcomes, a mental health expert, Dr. Abayomi Olajide has said.
The Consultant Psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State, told PUNCH Healthwise exclusively that stigma worsens the outcome of mental disorders.
He cautioned against passing critical comments on persons with mental illness, describing it as totally unacceptable, stressing that it should be discouraged.
According to him, mental illness is more common than many people can imagine, but the challenge is that most cases are not presented for medical attention.
The American Psychiatric Association says stigma and discrimination can contribute to worsening symptoms and reduce the likelihood of getting treatment for patients with mental illness.
The association stated that self-stigma leads to negative effects on recovery among people diagnosed with severe mental illnesses.
The effects the associated noted include reduced hope, lower self-esteem, increased psychiatric symptoms, difficulties with social relationships, reduced likelihood of staying with treatment and more difficulties at work.
A 2019 national poll from the association also found that mental health stigma is still a major challenge in the workplace.
President, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, Professor Taiwo Obindo, says that more than 60 million Nigerians are suffering from mental illnesses.
He expressed concern that mental illness was still perceived as a spiritual problem, affliction, among others and treated as such in Nigeria. He said people with mental illnesses need to present early for treatment.
“Passing critical comments on persons suffering mental illness is not good for the mind. When you stigmatise people with mental disorders, you make them more vulnerable to relapse and have the illness back.
“ Those using abusive and derogatory words on mentally challenged persons should desist from the act. Just as people develop physical illness, they could also develop mental disorders. People should stop passing critical comments on them. There is what we call high-expressed emotion,” he said.
According to Prof. Obindo, people need to know that mental disorder exists in all society and the vulnerability or predisposition is indeterminable
“Researches have shown that wherever a mentally challenged person is being exposed to highly expressed emotion, the person can come down with another illness despite using medication.
“And what do we call high expressed emotion– hostility from people, passing critical comments like ‘you are mad, you are crazy, you are an idiot’ are not good for the mind. Those words can actually worsen the outcome of mental illness. When you hear people who have mental illness committing suicide, these are some of the things responsible.
“This is because they think that everybody in the neighbourhood doesn’t seem to tolerate them. They are in the public, they cannot go out; in the house, there is trouble,” he added.
The psychiatrist pointed out that just as people can develop hypertension, people can also develop mental disorders.
“And when it happens, the table can turn to anybody. Let me give you an example, with the current situation in the country, the act of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, studies have shown that in societies where these kinds of things thrive, the prevalence of mental disorders could even double.
“Currently, we put the prevalence of mental disorders in this country at about 30 per cent. We all need to know that anybody can develop mental illness. We need to support people that live with mental disorders. Stigma worsens the outcome of mental disorder,” the mental health expert said.
In a 2017 study carried out by the American Psychiatric Association, it was found that greater self-stigma was associated with poorer recovery from mental illness after one or two years.
The study involved more than 200 individuals with mental illness over a period of two years.
“More than half of people with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders. Often, people avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently or fears of losing their jobs and livelihood.
“That’s because stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness is still very much a problem”, the researchers said.
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