« No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness“-Aristotle, 384-322 BCE
The representation of mental illness and the way society treats it has changed significantly throughout the years. Findings of 7000 year-old skulls, with holes in them, assumed to have been drilled with the goal of releasing evil spirits, believed to be the cause of mental illness (Stanwell-Smith, 2019). People with mental illnesses were considered as possessed, or even worse, as otherworldly. The treatment they were given was even more inhumane like cold baths and lobotomy (Stanwell-Smith, 2019).
But, with time and progress, research and diagnosis – pioneers in psychiatry such as Philipe Pinel fought to abolish the negative stigma of mental illness, and for a more humane treatment (Corrigan & Bink, 2016).
Slowly but surely, people with mental illness started to be considered as real individuals, capable of both contributing to, and to be a part of society.
It goes without saying that the negative stigma has still not been entirely erased from the public consciousness. History still casts long shadows into the present, and psychopathology is still associated with violence and dangerous behavior. This has consequences for the social and professional integration of those suffering from mental disorders. As a result, people do not seek help or even seek to avoid hospitalization, (Overton & Medina, 2008). « We can say that mental illness is like a two-edged sword. On one side, there are the symptoms, the distress and the disability that withhold people from pursuing their personal goals. On the other, there is stigma: the social injustice many people labeled mentally ill experience » (Corrigan & Bink, 2016).
This matter also influences the young generations. It is still taboo to talk about mental health problems. The ZETA Movement was created precisely in order to fight against the stigmatization and silence facing the young generations regarding the topic of mental health in Switzerland.
Read on for a short interview with one of the founders of the ZETA Movement, Emma Broggini!
As the co-founder of this project, how would you describe the ZETA Movement ?
I would say that the ZETA Movement is a group of young people who have decided to actively do something for mental health awareness. We recognize that mental health is a very important and relevant topic in our society that is too often stigmatized. We decided to engage with the issue and break the cycle of stigma.
What are the goals you want to reach with your project ?
I think the first goal we have is to start the conversation on mental health issues, because we are convinced that to talk about it is the first step towards a society that is more tolerant and understanding regarding mental health. We do this by creating safe spaces in which this type of conversation can take place. The more we talk about it, the less taboos and prejudices we will have about the topic.
Are you satisfied with the results of the ZETA Movement so far ?
Absolutely! I would even say that I’m way more than satisfied. I am surprised, and definitely proud of all our achievements and the milestones we’ve reached. Not only in terms of the number of people that are joining our movement, but also because of the recognition that we receive. That being said, I think that the most important success and achievement we have had, is that people and young people in particular are benefitting from the ZETA Movement, meaning that they can find a safe space to talk about mental health.
What is the ZETA Movement doing to fight the two-sided problem of stigmatization faced by people with mental health issues ?
The ZETA Movement is trying to act on both sides of the problem. On one hand we are telling people that they are not alone in whatever they’re going through, and that they can find help. And on the other hand we are providing safe spaces where the stigmatization you find in society is absent, and you can just talk, listen and be yourself with whatever bagage you have regarding mental health issues.
Thank you so much for your time, is there anything which you would like to add ?
Yes, one of our biggest projects is training young Ambassadors. They are young people who have experienced mental health issues in their lives, and go to various locations where there are young people, like schools, associations and youth centers, to talk about their experiences. We just started opening for new applications. We would be very happy if anyone reading this post would like to apply and contribute.
Click here to apply!
Corrigan, P. W., & Bink, A. B. (2016). The Stigma of Mental Illness. In Encyclopedia of Mental Health (p. 230234). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-397045-9.00170-1
Overton, S. L., & Medina, S. L. (2008). The Stigma of Mental Illness. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86(2), 143151. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6678.2008.tb00491.x
Stanwell-Smith, R. (2019). Mad, bad and dangerous to know? History and mental health. Perspectives in Public Health, 139(3), 110. https://doi.org/10.1177/1757913919838164