- Published on Monday, 02 April 2012 15:36
- Written by Shannon Holcroft
Mental Health Awareness Week is in progress, and despite the fact that 25% of university students suffer from a diagnosable psychological condition, there is still a devastating stigma attached to disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. With vast amounts of information available at the click of a button, it is astounding that misconceptions continue to exist and fuel false impressions.
Society often consider the mentally ill to be lacking in willpower, and are deluded in thinking it is always possible for sufferers to simply snap out of it and live like balanced individuals. The emo sub-culture that was all the rage a few years ago hasn’t aided the recognition of mental disorders as legitimate medical conditions.
I’m not suggesting that fans of emo fashion and music should be reprimanded, but the trend made an alarming impression on emotional attitudes of the youth.
During my Grade 9 year when emo was the height of chic, three of my five hostel roommates attempted suicide due to the influence of the sub-culture. It is these sickening and abnormal situations that prevent the mentally ill from being treated with compassion and understanding.
Society often does not cater properly for sufferers of mental illness, although laws have been put in place to ensure that the rights of the mentally ill are defended, provided they disclose their status. Protective resources like wellness officers or counselling facilities are often not incorporated in work environments, so fewer than 10% of mental illness sufferers capable of working are actually employed.
Luckily, UCT has some methods in place to make the university experience possible for mental illness sufferers. If students find themselves incapacitated by their illness and are unable to complete assignments or courses, they are able to appeal for an extension or a leave of absence due to extenuating circumstances. UCT also has a counselling service available at low cost to students at the Wellness Centre in Mowbray.
Countless artworks, novels and scientific theories that enrich our lives are products of the struggles and unconventional thought patterns of the mentally ill. It is not shameful or disgusting to be a sufferer of mental illness, but the world is still far from realising that psychological disorders are indistinguishable from other hereditary diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.
Mental Health Awareness Week hopes to replace the alienation mental illness sufferers experience in our society with a climate of compassion and understanding.