Let’s Talk About the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Fourscore and upward, I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

William Shakespeare

Weak, less than, sick, stupid, psycho, crazy.. the list goes on and on. Those are just some words that are used against people who suffer from mental illness. Words that are in our everyday vocabulary, words we usually don’t think twice about saying. But because of the stigma around mental illness, and what we are led to believe, those words, used in certain context, are now thrown around carelessly and without a second thought. And in turn has caused people suffering from mental illness, to believe those words themselves. It isn’t fair. It isn’t enough to say “it’s time to end the stigma.” We have to take action, help those suffering, and correct ourselves when we say something wrong. I think that the stigma surrounding mental illness is simple. Mental illness = weakness. Do you see the problem here? Mental illness is arguably the most stigmatized condition in this country. The stigma stems out of fear and ignorance. A lack of education, a lack of resources, perhaps a lack of empathy in some cases. It’s hard for me to understand why there’s such a negative stigma around mental illness. To me, understanding, supporting, and accepting a person with a mental illness isn’t a hard thing to do. It should be simple, it should definitely be the “norm.” I think that maybe people believe and fall into this negative stigma, because they themselves are afraid of developing a mental illness. It should not be that way. For a long time society has made us feel like having a mental illness is something to be afraid of, and then that produces a fear of mentally ill people. It’s a horrible cycle, that we need to break. The truth? The truth is that if you are one of the millions of people who suffer from depression, then you suffer from a mental illness. See, not so scary, right? Depression is a mental illness. Anxiety is a mental illness. Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness. OCD is a mental illness. Why are we so afraid of these illnesses , and the people that suffer from them? Because the stigma is so incredibly negative, and it’s in everything we do. Do you want to know the most obvious example of that? When we watch the news or read an article about someone committing a crime, and the first thing that is said about that person is that they’re either “mentally ill” or suffer from “some sort of mental illness.” We’re quick to use people’s mental illness as a scapegoat for the real problem in this country: the lack of accessible mental health care. The fact that sometimes people spin so out of control that they end up hurting themselves or others because they can’t get the help that they need. There is absolutely no reason why appointments with therapists or psychiatrists should be hundreds of dollars. There is no reason why medication should be hundreds of dollars. When it comes to mental health care, our country is failing us. It shouldn’t be hard to get help. But it is. And when people finally do get help, they struggle with feeling weak or less than because that’s what society tells us, what the stigma makes us believe. I know, because I am one of those people. My mental illness diagnosis is, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and disassociation stemming from my depression. So there you have it, I’m mentally ill. And I deal with the stigma everyday. My biggest problem is that I feel weak. I feel like it’s my fault. I feel like I’m not strong enough to handle all of the things that have happened to me. That’s what the stigma surrounding mental illness has done to me. I’m overcoming it, because I’m fortunate enough to have access to therapy and medication. I still struggle with my mental health every single day. Disassociation is something new that I have been dealing with, just over the past 2 months. That’s been scary. When I’m in a depressive episode, or having a panic attack, I disassociate. I feel out of touch with reality, I feel as though I’m outside of my body watching someone else live my life. I didn’t know what was happening to me until I talked to my therapist about it. I didn’t even know that disassociation was thing, because it’s never talked about. So I’m talking about it now, just incase there’s someone out there reading this who feels the same way. I’m trying to break the stigma one step at a time. I’ve realized through therapy that I’m not weak. In fact, I’m really strong. That’s the ironic part, I think. Society makes us believe that mentally ill people are weak, but I think that we’re some of the strongest people out there. The bottom line is: mental health is health. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just like how you’re physical health matters, your mental health does too. If you’ve fallen into believing the stigma, it’s okay. Just try your best to be aware of it, and work on changing it, you can do little things. Don’t use the words “crazy” or “psycho” or “stupid” when arguing with someone. Don’t make fun of someone for the anxieties that they have. or the depression that they are dealing with. Just be there for them, listen & understand them. Like me, you can try to break the stigma one step at a time. To all my other mentally ill people out there; this isn’t your fault, you are NOT broken, and you are not worthless. You are amazing. You are strong. You are brave. We all make mistakes, believe something that isn’t true, or make assumptions about people before getting to know them. You never know the battle hat someone is facing, so let’s be kind to one another. Let’s all work on being better, together. I recently finished Anxious People by Frederick Backman (would 10/10 recommend, it was absolutely amazing). I’m going to leave you with one of the most important quotes from the book. “They say that a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.”

One thought on “Let’s Talk About the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

  1. You are such a gifted writer Eleanor! I love you and how strong you are! Keep fighting always!! Love you❤️
    Nanny

    Like

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