Who defines what is normal and crazy in society? Where should we draw the line between abnormal and sick? People judge human behavior and it depends very much on their own personal social background. Culture and society matter and shapes our thinking, and so do social norms and values. This is particularly becoming a problem when assessing mental health. Experts speak of a disorder when the normal behavior deviates significantly and causes day-to-day problems. It is very hard to find a proper definition that can be shared by everyone. Almost everywhere in the world, mental illnesses are considered a taboo affecting people, who are sometimes said to be victims of witchcraft or possessed by evil spirits. Society blames the patients themselves for their bad condition. Certain mental disorders are accompanied by aggressive behavior. Those who display such behavior, have to face hatred and contempt, or fear. In many places, common responses to severe depression are still electroshocked, beatings, or locking up.
Mental disorders are on a sharp rise globally. Sadly they cannot be cured entirely, but therapy is very helpful in these cases. Making it available to those in need is a great boon and it should be high on the development agenda. Those who suffer from mental illnesses, are often too unwell and are unable to deal with everyday tasks. As a result, they underperform in terms of education, work, and social life. The World Health Organization states that: There is no health without mental health. Even the third Sustainable Development Goal about health and wellbeing includes mental health as a priority. Achieving it will require much more work on emerging health priorities such as mental health.
The journey to minimize or erase stigma in our communities and societies will be a long and definitely a slow one. The biggest challenge mental health patients face is to change the mindset of individuals and communities. The mental health workers also struggle to get the funding that is necessary to implement these programs to create awareness about the problem and propose solutions.
It remains to be seen whether these communities will continue to get the support they need to fund these crucial programs and if the programs are able to make a dent in people’s long-held beliefs about mental illness.