Schizophrenia, psychosis and personality disorders – what do you see or conjure up in your mind of a person (who live with any of these) as you read this? For some people, hearing these words they might think of that person being possessed in some way, possibly violent, out of control and not to be trusted. Such descriptions are not an accurate portrayal of anyone who live with these conditions. These negative stereotypes often mean that people will experience a greater sense of shame. Fearing judgement, they might not even divulge this to others or reach out when they need help or support.
A diagnosis can help to confirm that a person experiences certain mental health challenges in relation to their thinking, behaviour and how they interact with others. There are obstacles and suffering. The degree and severity in conditions can fluctuate. It’s entirely possible to live life well in spite of this. That person may need to be aware of their triggers that might exasperate their condition (for example, stress) and have strategies regarding their self-care. It’s important to see a person beyond their disability; focus on ability and who they are, not their diagnosis.
Many people with mental health conditions are able to have meaningful relationships, achieve great things and participate in their communities. We need to encourage more positive conversations around mental health conditions. This can lead to more understanding and empathy around those who experience them, banishing those negative stereotypes. Fight stigma through increased knowledge and kindness. People are still people, irrespective of their mental health status.