What takes your dignity away? It varies from individuals, but it’s usually those pitying stares and awkward silences, the advice given in attempt to be helpful but comes across as though the empathy is not quite there – and I’m sure you could add to the list. This is often why it can come to the point where it becomes difficult to realise or understand one’s worth or rights whilst suffering mental health problems. Mental health problems not only have physical constraints, but also psychological, which can be crippling to an individual’s sense of dignity. It is easy to feel labelled, lost and lose self-value, but remember,
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope”
It is easier said than done, but you can build your self-esteem back up, you can strengthen your mind and body bi’ithnillah because suffering does not mean there is no hope. Although it may feel like there is no hope, don’t forget that Allah is Ar-Rahman (The Most Compassionate), Al-Wadud (The Loving One), Al-Basit (The Reliever), you can get through this!
Having dignity helps us to remain sane but this can diminish from the effects of mental illness and the attitude of those around us. Generally, mental health is viewed in a negative light, with some cultures even making the sufferer feel responsible for ‘failing’ to be ‘perfectly normal’ thus becoming a social outcast. By normal, perhaps society means ‘to fit in and be the same’ but who wants that? Our individuality is what makes us stand out and it should be embraced, that’s including our mental health. There is no such thing as perfect, well not for humans anyway, but if there is one thing we can always be, it is better.
Human dignity contributes to our sense of self-worth and in having a useful and purposeful life – because if we feel that we are of no worth, what worth is there to life? To acknowledge as well as respect our own and others dignity may be hard to do, especially when we feel there is no reason to do so.
“Verily, We created man of the best stature (mould)”
It has been stated that mankind has been created أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِیم (in the best of moulds) which serves as a reminder, that externally and internally we were created by Allah, in a beautiful fashion, and whatever has been bestowed upon us from Allah is not undignified. You are valuable, you were created by the Best Creator!
It can be easy to fall into despair and a downwards spiral of self-loathing, because you are suffering and you aren’t acting ‘normal’. Just like there are differing disorders suffered, whether it be depression, personality or eating disorders, the norm from culture to culture differs. Which is why it is important to constantly ask ourselves, what exactly is normal? Does normality automatically mean an individual is sane?
It’s difficult to remember how important we are when we are having a tough time, and sometimes remembering that we are being tested can be more difficult as we feel that we are failing, but we are not the test makers.
“Say: “Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Maula (Lord, Helper and Protector).” And in Allah let the believers put their trust.”
So don’t sell yourself short! You are not a failure, your suffering does not define you, and you are not alone. Suffering a mental illness does not make an individual worthless, it’s how we deal with the suffering that matters.
Spiritual, social, legal and cultural influences all can play a role in shaping our sanity, outlook and value. This is essential in finding inner peace and successful connections to our surrounding environment and people. Sadly, dignity is one of those things that can be lacking in mental health care and treatment, through the use of stereotypes, discrimination from work, stigmatising language and behaviour, even by doctors and nurses! Therefore, interactions with others can be and feel difficult, which is why many mental health sufferers may feel like outsiders, affecting one’s dignity. Just because you may not behave or think like others does not mean you don’t have societal value.
Society creates labels for a sense of order and belonging, so when an individual is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the discrimination towards the individual or associated groups can be quick. It creates a situation of them vs. us, because people think of the label rather than the individual. The stigma faced by sufferers can be crushing, with individuals no longer feeling like themselves, but simply a collection of doctors’ opinions and old fashioned ideas held about mental illness. This helps create prejudice, and it’s time we didn’t use such derogative language to describe those with mental illness and had an open mind towards mental health. It’s better to tackle something unknown to become compassionate and understanding than to stay ignorant. Just imagine how you’d feel if you were in their position or if it was a loved one. This alternative approach can help to change our perspective and remind us to treat sufferers with respect, value and honour. The respect, value and honour they deserve.
We all deserve and have the right to be treated with dignity.