Breanna Hill, Features Editor
Mental health is something misconstrued and entangled in a negative light causing millions all over the world to abandon the thought of seeking help in an area of their life that needs it most.
Oftentimes, people focus solely on physical health and completely ignore what their soul needs.
The stigma surrounding mental health and talking about mental health stems from earlier centuries when those with mental illnesses of all kinds were treated unfairly and labeled as “crazy” by medical professionals and others who had their “wits about them,” so to speak.
According to the Foundations Recovery Network, during the 1840s, those suffering from mental health issues were placed in institutions, many of which resembled jails.
Those who were patients in these institutions were stripped of their born-rights including freedom; once someone was admitted, they were rarely let out. Patients endured abuse and horrific treatment while residing in these designated institutions, if you can even call them that.
Around the 1840s, Dorothy Dix — a mix of a nurse and an activist from Boston — conducted thorough research surrounding the questionable practices of medical professionals dealing with the mentally ill patients. Throughout her research she conducted numerous interviews with not only the doctors and physicians practicing at the time but also, more importantly, those whose lives were in the hands of these doctors.
Dix was disgusted by what she saw in the institutions. The results led her to fight for these patients who couldn’t fight for themselves.
She came up with proposals which would offer better care for these patients, but because of the unorthodox approach to a subject quite unpopular at the time coupled with rumors of her suffering from mental illness herself, not much was changed. She was their voice and she would continue to be their voice until she died in 1887.
Dix wasn’t the only one to be an advocate for the patients held against their will in these institutions.
Nelly Bly, a daring reporter became a published author because of her findings surrounding these institutions. Bly went undercover during the 1880s in one of these institutions and produced similar findings as Dix.
Strides have been made since then, but more needs to be made. According to the Mental Health Foundation, only one in eight adults receive and/or seek medical help, advice and treatment.
According to Jessi Gold, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, mentally ill patients usually find themselves delaying care for two reasons: fearing the stigma surrounding mental health and finding their illness as self-manageable.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March of last year, depression rates have skyrocketed as well as anxiety and other mental illnesses, leading psychiatrists to voice their concerns about more services being made available to those in need during such a crucial time.
The American Psychiatric Association has created an outline with steps to help with mental health during the pandemic and shared it with Congress, hoping to make help more accessible. The steps include providing help for frontline workers along with ensuring mental health needs are just as important as physical health needs.
There are companies rising up to the challenge and offering care for those in need, most of which are offering help without coming in for an in-person appointment. Better Help is highly recommended by physicians all over, and other companies are joining in for the cause.
Added resources are being implemented and serving as necessary outlets for others, while also taking strides to stop the stigma surrounding mental health. There’s still a long way to go, but the world is getting better.