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Op-Ed: Research helps remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness

By Melissa Horrocks     Jun 11, 2012 in Health
Reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness, helps teenagers seek help for psychiatric conditions. However, researchers at Case Western Reserve, say there is a lack of relevant, up to date information, regarding stigma in this age range.
According to Medical News Today, Melissa Pinto, PhD, RN, KL2 Clinical Research Scholar and instructor of nursing at the university's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, explained that they need to discover a reliable way of measuring the amount of stigma that exists within adolescents.
Pinto and her colleagues started the process of testing over 200 adolescents in the Southern USA. Their article appears in the year's first issue of the journal, titled, "Psychometric Evaluation of the Revised Attribution Questionnaire (r-AQ) to Measure Mental Illness Stigma in Adolescents," Authors concluded that the research was reliable and valid. However, they want more research to be carried out amongst more diverse groups of people across the USA.
Understanding the results of the research, helps teenagers to acknowledge the importance of seeking medical assistance when troubled by mental health problems. Teenagers may ignore signs of mental illness because they are more concerned about the perceptions of their peers and social network.
Teenagers learn about what is acceptable, or unacceptable, from friends and family members. If the individual feels that their friends will reject them if their problems with mental illness are known, they will face the consequences and damaging effects of disease without seeking help. On the other hand, if their friends are accepting, then the individual may feel free to ask for help.
People need to change their attitudes towards mental illness. If mental illness is left untreated, then illnesses like, depression and mood disorders could get worse and reoccur. People usually develop mental illness before the age of 25. Hiding the symptoms of mental illness can lead to substance misuse, unwanted pregnancy, problems at school, struggles at work and even suicide.
Before I was diagnosed with mental illness, the world seemed strange to me. I felt like I was not attached to the world and that it was strange to me. I felt like every day was unreal. I started using drugs and alcohol to get rid of the feelings, but this just made things worse. I was diagnosed with Schizoid Affective Disorder at the age of 20. I received treatment in hospital. The friends that I had, abandoned me and did not want to know. I felt alone. Even my father could not come to see me in hospital because it was too painful. My mother came to visit me and was sad to see me in such a state.
All through my teenage years I struggled to form friends and did not do well at school. I was bullied badly and did not fit in. I was a very angry teenager and my parents struggled with my behaviour. However, nobody knew what was wrong with me. Instead, they thought it was just bad, teenage behaviour. It was not until, I was in my twenties that the doctor's recognized there was something more serious.
I am now 34 years old and have a wonderful family and 2 beautiful children. I still struggle to make friends and keep to myself. I consider myself to be very blessed because life could be worse. I have to take each day at a time. I think that if more research was carried out, then the stigma would disappear and people could get help when they need it. Maybe people would not be afraid to befriend people with mental illness and there would be more understanding.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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