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‘Awareness is key’: Mental health stigma still rampant, says Dubai psychiatrist

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Mental health stigma, when a society shames the people who live in a state of mental illness or seek help for emotional distress, is still a rampant issue in many cultures, Dubai-based psychiatrist told Al Arabiya English.

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“Stigma on mental health issues is very rampant across all generations, not only in adults from the baby boomer generation,” said Dr. Shaju George, Psychiatrist at Dubai’s Medeor Hospital, noting that while it still is an issue, it has been improved in recent years.

“Ignorance is the main reason for stigma. Mental health issues are there since time immemorial,” he said.

George believes that research into mental health and neuroscience only began to increase in the last couple of decades, unlike other branches of medicine.

“Ignorance about mental health was fertile soil to develop all superstitious explanations backed by religion. Since religion had a major influence on people, unscientific superstitions on mental health issues dominated the world. The lack of research and treatment options added fuel to the fire that developed and spread this stigma across the world,” he said.

‘Awareness is key’

Creating scientific awareness is key, said George, in order to diminish this stigma.

Ensuring people are provided with the right information to understand that “the mind is the sum total of the brain functions… so mental health issues are the functional disorders of the brain – the master organ of the body.”

There are various ways to raise awareness. George suggests that it can be done at schools and universities or even on social media.

“Social media can play a big role in removing mental health stigma,” he said.

A stressed man sits on the floor with his his head in his hands. (Unsplash, Yosi Prihantoro)
A stressed man sits on the floor with his his head in his hands. (Unsplash, Yosi Prihantoro)

“Encouraging research into mental health, starting state-of-the-art treatment centers for comprehensive care of mental health issues as well as accepting and considering mental health issues as that of any other medical illness in the home, workplace and society helps to create a more positive environment without any discrimination or taboo.”

People believe mental and physical health equally important, new survey finds

A survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of natural vitamin and supplement producer MegaFood focused on the ways in which people approached their mental, emotional and physical health and how they may have been impacted throughout the pandemic.

The survey, which involved 2,000 Americans, found that 45 percent of Millennials said they were more likely to talk to a therapist compared to eight percent of baby boomers.

Seventy-four percent of the survey’s respondents said that their physical health was just as important as their mental and emotional health, indicating a more holistic approach to the matter.

Millennials (84 percent) and Baby Boomers (66 percent) agreed on taking a holistic approach to their health, meaning that they care for their person as a whole by catering to physical, mental and social needs.

The men who were surveyed were more inclined to take a holistic approach compared to women, accounting for 83 percent and 75 percent respectively.

When asked to rate various aspects of their lifestyle to gain a better understanding into what mattered most to each group, emotional and mental health came first, accounting for seven out of 10 while physical health came in second at 7.1. Job security ranked the lowest among the provided choices, scoring 5.5 out of 10.

“It’s no surprise that in 2021, our health and well-being are our top priorities when ranked against other lifestyle aspects,” said Naturopathic Doctor and Medical Director at MegaFood Erin Stokes in a statement.

“And more than half of respondents (53 percent) noted that the #1 way they take care of their physical health is by eating a healthy diet.”

Baby Boomers were most likely to incorporate vitamins and supplements into their diet (76 percent), compared to Millennials and Gen X (68 and 65 percent respectively).

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