The Persistent Issues With Mental Health And Social Stigma
It was a warm day in Auvers, France. The morning air gave way to a gentle breeze through the wheat field as the sun glowed across the land. Such a peaceful day, as nature quietly hummed, birds chirped, and the wheat rustling provided the only sounds of that summer day. Until. A gunshot rang out in the field, silencing nature with an abrupt startle. On 27 July 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself with a revolver. Painfully, van Gogh held on to life for two days. He died the morning of 29 July 1890 at the age of 37. While debate surrounds van Gogh’s shooting to this day, there is no denying Vincent was troubled with mental health issues that plagued him for years. Scholars have speculated on van Gogh’s condition with many possible modern-day diagnoses. Nevertheless, van Gogh is one of many people from history who suffered from mental health issues. Yet, Vincent’s story provides a cautionary tale to today’s outlook on mental health and the stigma that still afflicts that population.
People encounter the world differently, often with help from previous life experiences. However, for some, mental struggles plague everyday activities more than others. The stigma of mental illness appears prominent in western society and is often represented negatively in pop culture through films. These examples of psychiatric issues misrepresent the population, fueling stereotypes and misinterpretations of actual disorders. Many people still view mental illness with prejudice when, in fact, more people suffer from some form of a mental issue than fully appreciated. The COVID pandemic and the resulting lockdown highlighted problems many had not noticed before. Perhaps there is a change in the popular opinion that the lockdown brought forth regarding mental health and its significance. Yet, as we look back at the likes of van Gogh, have we improved upon the care of the psychiatric population? Are the people suffering from significant mental health issues still at risk medically and socially?
I remember the first time I really understood the impacts of humanity and the fragility of mental health in general. There was no genetic pre-disposition or known chemical imbalance regarding the…