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From Stigma to Strength: Evolution of Mental Health Discourse, by Erin Lorde

Posted by on 22 Aug, 2023 in Mental Health |

From Stigma to Strength: Evolution of Mental Health Discourse, by Erin Lorde

Amidst the evolving discourse surrounding mental health, where stigma and darkness once prevailed, a new dawn is emerging. The journey from stigma to strength has been a gradual evolution, and at each juncture, the narrative surrounding mental health is being reshaped. The generations, once divided by taboos and misunderstanding, are now finding a shared path in their journey toward understanding, acceptance, and healing.

Generational Gap Unveiled: Unmasking Stigma

For the older generation, raised in an era where conversations about mental health were unexplored territory, the journey has been riddled with challenges. The Generation X cohort, often steeped in the values of resilience and self-reliance, unintentionally allowed the stigma to shroud mental health struggles.

Mental illnesses like depression were demoted to the shadows, wrapped in misconceptions, fear, and perpetuating feelings of shame and isolation. According to the Mental Health Foundation in the UK, mixed anxiety and depression are most prevalent in people aged 55 – 64 years, whereas rates of anxiety and depression are lowest in individuals aged 16 – 24 years.

Furthermore, the Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index revealed that 58% of millennials and Generation Z in the UK said they believe social media sites like Facebook and Instagram make them feel inadequate about their own life or achievements. This underscores the growing recognition of mental health issues and their associations with social media among younger generations.

Despite co-morbid anxiety and depression being most prevalent in the older generation, only 1/8 (12%) adults aged 55 years and over received treatment for mental health problems, compared to almost 1/5 (19%) adults aged under 55 years old.

This suggests that the younger generation feels more at ease discussing mental health openly, a stark contrast to their senior counterparts. This striking difference underscores the deeply entrenched stigma that has persisted for decades.

Key facts from the Mental Health Foundation

  • At least one in four older adults experiences some mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or dementia.
  • Due to population ageing, the number of seniors with mental disorders is expected to double by 2030.
  • Depression is the most common mental health problem in older people.
  • People aged 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any age group.
  • Two-thirds of seniors with mental health problems do not get the treatment they need (the “treatment gap”).

Strength in Vulnerability: Redefining Courage

The once-muted conversation is now flowing and shows no sign of stopping.

Initiatives, both grassroots and institutional, are leading to a seismic shift. Stories of resilience are undoing the walls of silence, allowing individuals from diverse backgrounds to find their voices.

With the evolution at hand, the previously entrenched belief that seeking help indicates weakness is outdated. Asking for help is now perceived as an emblem of remarkable strength, replacing the previous badge of shame. This paradigm shift is fundamental for intergenerational healing, as the older generation copes with the understanding that acknowledging mental health challenges is not synonymous with personal failure.

According to Age UK, around 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 years and over in England have depression that is severe enough to need treatment, but many do not receive the help they need due to stigma  Nobody should be left to suffer in silence and if you’re not comfortable to discuss your mental health with a loved one, there is a plethora of advice available from your GP surgery or mental health charities such as the SamaritansMind and Heads Together .

Sustaining Momentum: Fostering Change

As the winds of change persist, maintaining momentum demands a multifaceted approach. Education remains paramount, dispelling long-standing myths and misconceptions that have prolonged stigma. Public awareness campaigns, community-driven initiatives, and intergenerational conversations form the foundation of a more inclusive and empathetic society.

To uphold this trajectory, collaboration between mental health professionals, policymakers, and advocates is key. Allocating resources for mental health services, particularly targeting the older generation, ensures accessible avenues for seeking help.

Conclusion: Embracing a New Era

The journey from stigma to strength remains an ongoing saga, a testament to human resilience and the potency of collective action. Celebrate vulnerability, cherishes dialogue, and thrive on empathy. The older generation’s transition from silence to solidarity bridges not only the generational gap but also paves the way for a society that values mental health’s significance. As we move forward, let’s remember that each conversation, each stride toward understanding, is a triumph over stigma and an affirmation of the strength within us all.


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