The students of Medical and Psychiatric Department were placed in Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi Regional Institute of Mental Hospital (LGBRIMH), Tezpur for one month field experience. It was a great learning experience with the mentally ill patients. These experiences give lots of insight about psychiatric illnesses which are different from all other illnesses or diseases, and where listening and observation skills play a great role in understanding the patient’s problems. Yet it is a disease that calls for medical treatment and it can be cured. From all the experiences and learnings that I have within this month, one thing that strikes me the most is “the stigma” that we create towards the mentally ill patients and I would like to share it.
Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart, and makes a person believe in stereotypes about mental illness and when this happens he/she will have a negative reaction towards the person who is ill, and place the person with the mental illness in an unfavorable social situation.
We all cultivate stigma related to different diseases and the stigma related to mental illness is one of the greatest problems which makes us difficult to accept or believe the person who is ill. Stigma like it’s some kind of supernatural power; curse from God, family does not live good life and so on; also that a person cannot be cured or treated, and so instead of going to some psychiatric hospital for treatment we usually go to faith healers to cure the patient and to repent believing it’s a curse from God. But why would God simply let his child suffer?
All these false beliefs about mental illness can cause a significant problems, as it brings experiences and feelings of shame, blame, hopelessness, distress, isolation, misunderstanding and reluctance to seek help; the fear of being stigmatized prevents people from accessing and accepting necessary help. Also it has a negative impact on the recovery process and treatment. And thus patients are suffer not only from the illness but also from the stigma. Stigma is worse than the sickness itself. Even the patient himself/herself doesn’t want to accept his or her illness though (s)he is aware about it. They blame it on some physical illness or other external factors like poison by others, black magic and so on.
I want to conclude by asking why should mentally ill persons be subjected to all these types of stigma. It is a disease just like cancer, no one wants to get it. We all have a role in creating a mentally healthy and socially inclusive community that supports in recovery and reduces discrimination.