To live like all normal people” is a phrase that is frequently heard from those who have spent half of their lifetime within the walls of institutions. Respecting their needs to live independently isn’t merely a moral, but also a legal obligation of the State of which they are citizens.
The fear and shame that surround mental disorders have been around for centuries. The stigma of mental illness is probably one of the oldest prejudices. The concept of stigma is the key to understanding the social alienation of persons with mental health difficulties. Stigma generally refers to labeling a person who is different from “the norm” which then results in a lack of acceptance and alienation from society. The global indicator regarding the stigmatization of persons with mental health difficulties shows that, in the majority of countries, persons with mental issues are less valued than those persons who do not have problems with mental health. To avoid or lessen this stigma, it is important to openly speak about mental illness, just like we speak about other serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
Mental health, as well as problems with mental health (mental illness), is the result of biological, social and psychological factors. The psychological factors are often triggered by stressful events in a person’s life or by the environment in which we live. The stress level that affects our health depends on the individual.
Every person is at risk of developing a mental illness at some point in his or her life. A range of factors influence the development of mental health problems. Once a difficulty or disorder develops, it can have negative effects on a person’s employment, income, adequate housing, and their use of various services within the community or a social network.