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​Many people with mental illness often suffer in silence. They keep their condition to themselves until it is too late. Yet, studies have shown that early treatment can improve the progress of recovery for these people. However, late detection or delaying treatment can cause the condition to worsen. So, why do these people suffering from mental illness delay seeking treatment?

Often, it is due to the fear of rejection and ridicule by society. The stigma of mental illness is perpetuated in the form of belittlement, discrimination, stereotyping and labeling of people with mental illness. Some people believe that those who suffer from mental illness are dangerous and unpredictable and should be institutionalised. Often these perceptions are fuelled by media reports of violence involving mental patients who caused physical harm on their family members or the community. These media reports reinforce a negative perception of people with mental illness, hence, sidelining them as outcasts of the society.

If you have a mental illness...

Avoid socially isolating yourself. Choose to share about your mental illness with someone you trust. Decide who this person(s) is/are, and how much you are comfortable sharing. You may wish to share with them your feelings of fear or uncertainty, or simply helping them to understand how they can support you in your rehabilitation.

Sometimes, your friends or family members may distance themselves from you when you open up to them about your struggles, but do not let that become a hurdle. Remember that you have a medical condition that is not your fault and there are others who are experiencing the same struggles as you.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professionals about your condition. Surround yourself with supportive people who care about you and are prepared to spur you on to the road of recovery. Join a support group to share your experiences with others who are having the same condition as you. It can do wonders to your confidence and releases you from the burden of keeping a secret.

Most importantly, follow up on your treatment to improve your condition.

If your loved one has a mental illness...

It can be difficult having a relative or loved one suffer from mental illness, as it can also bring about a change in the lifestyle of family members. However, mental illness can be treated, and you can play a very important role in that person's improvement and recovery.

It is important to offer support and empathy for the person suffering from mental illness. Understand and learn to accept that a person can demonstrate unusual thoughts or behaviour as an effect of the mental illness he/she is suffering from. Listen to the person and try to understand what he or she wants or is trying to express. Avoid making hurtful comments when you are frustrated.

Mental illness is no different from any other illness – it has its own signs and symptoms, diagnosis and cure, as well as ways to manage it. You should not be ashamed of your loved one's condition. Accepting your loved one's condition can also help to ease any hidden feelings of guilt or fears that the sufferer may undergo due to his/her predicament. If they have not yet started treatment, encourage them to seek help from professionals such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor or doctor, as early as possible. Be a pillar of support and be involved in their medical progress.

If you have recovered and are looking at rejoining the workforce...

It may be disheartening that sometimes people around hold discriminatory attitudes toward you or even shun you when they discover your past medical history. Getting back into society may be an uphill task. Finding a job and making friends can be difficult and challenging.

You may kick start a working life with part-time work that does not demand too much out of you. Allow yourself to be accustomed to working life before gathering momentum to a full-time job. Once you are ready, a full time job will be the next leap you are going to make.

Initially, you may encounter stigmatisation and discrimination. You may also face employment barriers, for example, a prospective employer may probe into your medical condition or inform you that you are an unsuitable candidate. Be honest and truthful about your past and take this chance to explain to your prospective employer on how you can contribute to the organisation. If you find that it is too much for you to take, relax and give yourself some time to search for a suitable job with a supportive environment.

Try to immerse yourself in social gatherings and overcome the initial anxiety in meeting new people. The more 'hellos' and 'good-byes' you go through, the less stressed you would become.

Tips

  1. Generate awareness of mental illness amongst friends, relatives and in your workplace. Give them an opportunity to understand more about mental illness.
  2. Be understanding to the struggles of a mentally ill loved one. Be involved and show support for their recovery process.
  3. If you have recently recovered from a mental illness, allow yourself to be accustomed to working life through short training courses or part-time work so as to reduce unnecessary anxiety.​