STIGMA AND ITS HARSH CONSEQUENCES
“There is a perception that there is no stigma. But know, that it is alive and thriving”
Mental illness can strike anyone at anytime! It knows no age limits, economic status, race, creed or color. Yet despite widespread efforts to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness, Americans still perceive it as shameful. The Surgeon General, after reviewing scientific evidence, concluded that the stigma attached to mental illness constituted the “primary barrier” to treatment and recovery. Stigma could be reduced, many believed, if people could be convinced that mental illnesses were “real” brain disorders and not volitional behaviors for which people should be blamed and punished. Many prominent reports emphasize, scientific understanding as a way to reduce stigma, according to a new study published online this past September 15, 2013 in the American Journal of Psychiatry. 1
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by the year 2020 mental illness will be the second leading cause of death and disability.2 Ultimately, every society across borders and cultures alike will have to address the issue. However the question that arises in my mind is how will they? Will the issue of mental illness be embraced with awareness or will it be even further buried by the stigma that buries it in present day societies everywhere?
Stigma, stereotypes people with mental illness. It labels and creates feelings of anger; frustration, shame and low self-esteem and can cause discrimination at home, work, and school and in other areas of your life. For someone with a mental illness, the consequences of stigma can be completely devastating.
According to the medical profession, the biggest obstacle to people with mental health issues reaching out for treatment is, the feeling of being ashamed and frightened of its consequences once they have been labeled. Another contributing obstacle for people not reaching out for treatment is, continuously staying in denial. Talking about mental illness is a taboo subject. It is not just “dumping” how you feel, people should be encouraged to seek help like your family doctor, therapist, and not made to feel ashamed to join a support group.
Mental illness is seen as a weakness. I call it a mind condition, or a mind injury, which causes pain of the mind and the body. Many people with mental illness feel weak and vulnerable. I know, I have been a victim and have suffered from the consequences of being branded for life. Once I was branded, the constant ongoing stigma, and the monitoring of all my actions was degrading, demoralizing and was used as a weapon to bully me into submission from family, so called friends, business associates and even the law. People with mental illness are judged very harshly even by some members of the medical profession.
One of the biggest challenges in breaking the stigma of mental illness, is where it is perceived by others that you are ‘not balanced’ or ‘not of sound mind’, or ‘not quite right’ or ‘irrational’. Your state of mind is always in question, which leads to emotional abuse and you being made vulnerable from the very real threat of having people question your state of mind. Emotional blackmail is very destructive and is used as a weapon by when there are family disputes, relationships, employers, lawyers and even doctors. Mental illness is also used as a weapon in many marriage break-ups with one spouse accusing the other person of being an unfit parent. Lack of understanding by family, friends, colleagues or others you know. Most people who have never experienced being labeled as a person with mental illness, lack complete understanding of what it really means.
I was the chairman, CEO of a multimillion-dollar pioneering organic Food Company that was listed on the stock exchange and had the misfortune of having a complete mental breakdown due to the uncontrolled stress of my life. I lost a lifetime of hard work, my self-respect, family and most of all my freedom. My bank accounts were frozen, credit cards confiscated, passport taken from me and was made a ward of the state. But I survived, and fought back and to the amazement of the doctors cured myself completely, of a condition of the mind that they all said was incurable.
That was over 16 years ago, shortly after my mental breakdown, I was back at work and continued to be in the business arena working harder than ever, but the stigma relentlessly shadowed me, monitored and questioned every aspect of my life. It still follows me around to this day. Many a time, when I have been confronted with someone being upset with me, a serious disagreement, argument, dispute, legal issue or litigation, the brand “stigma” pops up, and it is an issue people can’t help but take advantage of. In my own personal experience, when I have been called a ‘lunatic’, ‘you’re not quite right’, ‘you need psychiatric help’, you are ‘unwell’, you should be locked up in a mental institution because that is where you belong, are extremely severe, hurtful and harmful abuse that I experienced to this day – it is far worse than physical abuse. This has lead to threats of blackmail and /or intimidation, all of which happened to me.
I for certain became a victim, and the stigma still sticks to me and I have not been able to get away from it entirely. During the last sixteen years I have from time to time having to prove that I am of sound mind. I even had the misfortune of having a well-known academy award winning movie star and a producer, with whom I was in business with briefly as an investor, questioning my state of mind and my sanity, threating me that if I took legal action against them they would play the mental illness card! They said to me that no one will believe a madman, but they would believe an academy award winning movie star. During legal proceeding their lawyers asked me for all my medical records, and during taking my deposition kept provoking me, asking if I was on medication and questioning my soundness of mind. I was the prevailing party of the legal dispute. The whole proceeding was humiliating and the stigma stuck like super glue.
Many feel that mental illness is genetic; and that they have no way of overcoming it. It is my strong belief that many mental illnesses can be overcome and be cured, and can be initially caused by learnt behavior. A combination of stresses of life, what one is exposed to over a long period of time and making poor lifestyle choices. Compare the reaction of people when you tell them you have cancer, to telling them that you have a mental illness for instance bi-polar disorder. They are sympathetic towards a physical illness but very judgmental of a mental illness and may conjure up all sorts of excuses to avoid you as if you belong to a leper camp. Stigma finds it way to haunt people where they may be discriminated at work or school, may have physical violence, harassment in their lives, where the world has become a bit of a bullying place.It is where health insurance doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness bills. The belief that you will never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation.
What are we going to do about it?
Awareness of the condition is very important and helps prevent it escalating to the next level. Stress Pandemic: 9 Natural Steps will help break the cycle and the LifeReStyle process will help you develop resilience to the stigma and branding surrounding mental illness. Prevention is the key; it is far better than recovery.
How can we demolish the wall of stigma if we cannot find the courage to express our experiences with mental illness, to not feel so alone, don’t have doubt and share; and most of all have hope that you will beat the stigma. Try our best to never give up. We think we are the only one with the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Never ever give up. You are not alone.
By PAUL HULJICH – Author, Stress Pandemic.
2) Huljich Paul, Stress Pandemic, Mwella Publishing, p60 – 61
Paul Huljich co-founded Best Corporation, a pioneering organic foods company of which he was chairman and joint-CEO. In leading the company to great success, during which its value grew to more than $100 million. Huljich gradually developed a number of stress-related conditions, including anxiety and depression. Ultimately, in 1998, he had a complete mental break down, as a result of years of unchecked stress since he was a teenager. He lost his rights as a citizen and was made a ward of the state. He lost a life time of hard work.The consequences of which was disastrous to him and his immediate family.
Despite seeking the best care available, Huljich was informed that there was no cure for his illness, and that he would inevitably relapse, he felt like a broken man. Determined to free himself of his conditions, he began a comprehensive search for answers as why this happened to him. He traveled to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and voluntarily admitted himself to the Menninger Clinic in Kansas for treatment.
Aided by exhaustive research, Huljich ultimately succeeded in fortifying himself and conquering his stress. He was able to overcome his debilitating conditions and accomplish a healthy, positive way of life, naturally. He developed the nine-step LifeReStyle Process to break the cycle of stress and achieve a unique LifeRestyle Solution and thrive.
Since the year 2000, Huljich has not taken any medication related to any condition of the mind, nor has he suffered any relapse or needed any further treatment regarding any kind of mental illness. He has fully cured himself and has never felt better.
Today he is back, better and stronger than before. He shares his personal story, his struggle, his difficulties and finally his path to complete recovery and optimum wellness in Stress Pandemic (Ed2): 9 Natural steps to break the cycle of stress and thrive.
Huljich is now one of America’s top stress experts, a public speaker, a stress management and LifeReStyle coach, a member of the American Institute of Stress.
He is also the author of the Psychological thriller Betrayal of Love and Freedom. He has appeared in over 500 radio shows including BBC, Bloomberg, and Fox television, a regular personality on television and press, while blogging for Psychology Today and conducting motivational seminars. Paul has been conducting seminars in the Omega Institute in NY and on the Island of Maui – Hawaii to mention a few. He is a regular speaker at many collages and Universities.
Huljich is the father of three sons: Mark, Simon and Richard. He resides in New York City for most of the year and visits his homeland, New Zealand, regularly.