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'Urgent need to address stigma and shame around mental health'

Mental health is as important as physical health: Gurpreet Ganda Source: AAP / David Cheskin/PA Wire

People suffering from mental health issues within the community are often challenged by the stereotypes and stigma associated with mental illness, says clinical psychologist Gurpreet Ganda.

Ms Ganda says social stigma and discrimination can make mental health illness worse and stop a person from getting the help they need.

In an interview with SBS Punjabi, Ms Ganda says this stigma can be twofold within the Indian community: Public stigma as well as self-stigma.

"It is very sad but many people from the Indian subcontinent have an inherent fear in their minds that they will be socially shamed or boycotted if they seek advice for their issues from a medical professional which prevents them from getting the treatment they require to address the issue making it worse with time," she says.


Highlights:

  • Mental health is as important as physical health says clinical psychologist Gurpreet Ganda
  • 'People suffering from mental health issues within the community are often challenged by the stereotypes'
  • 'We need to understand that people who experience a mental health concern are not “sick” or “ill”'

Ms Ganda says mental and physical health are inextricably linked and we must not separate the mind from our body and should give equal emphasis and care to both.

"If someone gets physically hurt for example suffers a fractured hand, we immediately rush to the doctors to get it fixed but how many times do we show the same urgency for mental health issues?" she questions.

Gurpreet Ganda
People suffering from mental health issues are often challenged by the stigma associated with mental illness, says clinical psychologist Gurpreet Ganda.
G Ganda

Need to raise awareness about mental health issues:

Ms Ganda says there is an urgent need to raise awareness about mental health issues and the treatment available to people encountering such issues within the community so they "address it instead of suppressing" mental illnesses. 

"We should create awareness about mental health by starting with ourselves. The more we try to suppress mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, stress etc, the worse they become.

"We need to understand that people who experience a mental health concern are not “sick” or “ill”, they are just having an emotional experience and must not be ridiculed or laughed at," she adds. 

COVID-19 impact on mental health:

Many people are experiencing fear and anxiety due to uncertainty and sudden disruptions in their daily routines due to the pandemic, leaving many with increased risk of experiencing mental health concerns, says Ms Ganda.

"For many people, life has become totally uncertain and there is a fear about things to come in the future pushing them to the edge," she says.

Ms Ganda advises that people experiencing such concerns must raise these issues with their GP in the first instance.

"Anyone feeling depressed or sad should consult their GP in the first instance who will then make a mental health plan and if required can refer you to a specialist for further therapy sessions. Medicare holders can have 10 free sessions per year," she says.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (up to age 25). 

More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this feature in Punjabi.

 

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News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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