It can be difficult enough to have a mental health problem in the first place. But it can feel like a double blow when you get a bad reaction from people, or are discriminated against because of your difficulties.
Imagine, for example, you had a problem with anxiety – the kind of feelings that many people get just before an exam. Now imagine you had it all the time, every day, even if there was no exam.
Then on top of that, imagine people thought you were strange or avoided you because of your problems.
It happens because, in general, people's attitudes to mental health problems are very complicated. They often don't have enough information (are not 'educated') about these kind of problems. This makes it difficult for them to understand.
This can mean that the general public is sometimes scared or embarrassed around individuals who have mental health problems.
They may treat them differently. This is partly because of the confusion about what mental illness actually is. People (often mistakenly) link mental health issues with the affected person being violent, unpredictable and dangerous.
In fact, people with experience of mental health problems are more likely to be the victims of violence than the cause of it.
People also get mental illness mixed up with other disabilities, such as with learning disability, for example, or wrongly think that it is linked with intelligence.
Mental illness in history
Throughout most of history, people with mental illnesses have often been misunderstood, and others have been frightened of them.
'Patients' were often kept away from other people and put in hospitals – sometimes locked up. This is why, even today, people sometimes worry that someone with a mental health problem might be 'dangerous'.
Seeds of the stigma
The word 'stigma' comes from the word 'stigmata'. 'Stigmata' was the practice in ancient Greece where people had marks cut or burnt onto their bodies to show they were different.
Stigma can be seen as a 'mark' or stain on someone's reputation. It is seen as a mark of disgrace.
People with mental illness often feel they are 'stigmatised' because of their condition because they get negative, hostile or fearful reactions from people.
They often say they have been verbally or physically abused or bullied as a result of their mental health condition.
The language of mental illness
Sometimes people wrongly call other people 'schizophrenic', 'manic depressive' or say that they have a 'split personality' – when they actually have no idea what this really means.
Negative terms like 'nutter', 'crazy', 'schizo' and 'psycho' are often used to describe people who have mental health problems.
This sort of language makes it difficult for people who experience psychosis
to be taken seriously or be seen in a positive way.
Mental illness and being 'dangerous'
While it's true that there are some dangerous people who are mentally ill, there are plenty of dangerous people who are not mentally ill.
The majority of people who experience mental health problems are not dangerous. A person with a mental health problem is far more likely to simply be a danger to themselves, rather than to other people.
In fact, the reality is that you are as likely to be struck by lightning as to be killed by a stranger who is mentally ill.
Lack of sympathy
There is sometimes not much sympathy for people with mental health problems.
Other people sometimes see these problems as being 'self-inflicted' or 'brought on themselves' (especially things like addiction, eating disorders and self-harm
This lack of sympathy is surprising given how common mental health problems actually are. In fact, at any one time, one in six adults in the UK is living with a mental health problem.
And it's thought that up to a quarter of children and young people under the age of 16 have a diagnosable mental health problem. This could be depression, self-harm
, eating disorders or addiction problems.
The way forward
Myths about mental health can be exploded through education and giving people proper information.
After all, if the statistics are anything to go by, you are more than likely to know one or more people during your lifetime who have a mental health problem. It could, in fact, be you or a member of your close family.
People with mental health problems need support, help and understanding. So why not be one of the first to understand what it's really all about?