There is so much stigma around mental illness and it’s vital that we break this down. There always has been this stigma throughout the years and although things have gotten gradually a little better, there is still far too much stigma where there should be none. In its place should be understanding, knowledge, support and acceptance.
Mental illness is very common
1 in 4 people has a mental illness, meaning that you will know more than one person in your life who has a mental illness or you may be suffering from a mental illness yourself. It’s not something that is rare and there are plenty of resources out there to be able to understand all kinds of mental illnesses. We should all be aware of it and be open about it.
There is such a wide range of mental illness from depression and anxiety, personality disorders, dissociative disorders, mood disorders including bipolar disorder which I suffer from, psychotic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and many more. We should be aware of these things and try to understand them instead of judging others.
We are not dangerous
People with mental illnesses are not dangerous, we are in fact more vulnerable and far more likely to have been hurt by others or to be hurt in the present and future than we are to hurt anyone else. We’re far more likely to be a danger to ourselves than to be dangerous to others. We are individuals, our illnesses do not define us as people and we don’t deserve to be treated as such. We deserve understanding and compassion from others.
It’s not our fault
Just as with physical illness, it’s not something that we have decided to struggle with and it’s not something that we should be punished or judged for. Just like physical illness, we are trying to deal with it the best way we can and trying to get the treatment we need. It is not our fault. We are going through enough already, we don’t need the stigma on top of what we are trying to cope with.
The impact of stigma is huge
Stigma can cause people not to seek treatment because they are frightened that professionals won’t take them seriously. It can cause people to hide their illness from friends and family because they feel they won’t be understood or will be judged by others. It can mean that we don’t receive the treatment we deserve because mental illness isn’t prioritized the same way that physical illness is. It can mean that we are thought of as ‘lesser’ or ‘incapable’ simply because we have an illness that is not our fault. It can mean that we are turned down for jobs because people think we aren’t as able, or mean that we face judgement in the workplace from colleagues and employers. It can mean that people are left isolated and feeling completely alone, unaware that others are going through the same things. It can result in the suicide and loss of people who perhaps could have been given help, could have found support, could have managed their illness more effectlively if stigma didn’t exist and if they were taken seriously.
We need understanding, acceptance and education
We need to promote a culture of understanding, acceptance and education about mental illness. We need to teach and educate every generation about mental health and make it part of an ongoing conversation, part of every day life so that anyone feels comfortable speaking up and getting help, so that nobody ever feels that they are completely alone in their struggles. We need to give mental illness the respect that we give any physical problem.
Let’s beat the stigma
Everyone can do their part, even small things help to add to awareness and the conversation, whether this be speaking out if you feel able; starting conversations with those in your life; educating yourself; encouraging others to educate themselves; joining the conversation on social media; joining campaigns; making videos; blogging or getting the word out there in any way that you feel comfortable and able to do.
If someone in your life is experiencing a mental illness, please take the time to do research into the topic so you can understand what they are going through. Be there for them, support them and don’t judge them. The more people that do what they can to break down this stigma, the more people that band together to widen the conversation, the more likely it is that we will be heard and that stigma will be beaten.