Why do We Fight to End the Mental Illness Stigma?

Have you ever told someone that the mental illness you are going through is just a “phase?”

Action Speak Louder Than Words

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Words hurt more than anything. It pains me when someone says to me “you should just get over it, everyone else has to.” That is probably true at some level, but the truth is so much more profound– if I could go a day without mental illness, it would be a blessing. It would be so much easier to wake up one morning and not fear the day. Not worry that my anxiety may spiral at any moment. That this morning could be the morning that I want to end it all for no other reason than the wiring is all wrong in my head.

Today I read a sad story about a young boy just nine-years-old that was bullied to the point that he took his own life. How can we live in a world where words from bullying are so bad that someone so young could take his life? We should live in a world where everyone is welcome, and not judged by things like who we chose to be or love. Sadly, we do not live in such a world, but we can continue to fight to end this way of thinking.

It may just seem like words, but words can cut deep, and can have a lasting effect. Words can make mental illness seem impossible to live within this world.

So what can we do? We continue to give the voice to the people of the mental illness community. The shared experience that we that have lived in this world is what can make a significant difference. Maybe together we can end the stigma and let people know that suicide is not the answer. We can not continue as a society if we treat those of us with mental illnesses as second-class citizens and resort to bullying because we fail to fit what society believes we should act or feel. Mental illness is not a choice.

What Can We Do?

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I have found sharing through experience, the entire experience– the good, the bad, and the ugly is the best way to combat the stigma. When we talk about our experiences, it helps those who will never know what it is like to live a day with a mental illness. We must educate those people with our amazing mental illness journey. No journey is simple and straightforward. Living each day with a mental illness and just surviving is a strength. Let us share that strength to teach.

At the same time, we must continue to educate ourselves by reading the stories of others in the mental illness community. When we are divided by our own differences, it makes it easier for people to say “just get over it.” The mental illness community is stronger as a whole.

Words matter. We can show how words can hurt us and make us want to disappear. We can also use words to our advantage when we share a common cause with those in this world that suffer from physical conditions. That can only strengthen our position because they know as well as anyone what suffering brings. Suffering is suffering, no matter physical or mental.

Let us Encourage Seeking Help!

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Above all, we must encourage those that are suffering alone without help to seek help. There is nothing more important than seeking help, and it is the most stigmatized part of mental illness.

I can recount many times that people have frowned upon the thought of me seeing a therapist. They ask how someone could be open to telling a perfect stranger your most profound darkest thoughts? It helps to have someone to talk to that is trained to understand. It was not always so, but I am proud that I am willing to seek help from a therapist and a psychiatrist. There are those that find solace in group therapy. I have found some peace with my social anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy. Productive things like meditation, drinking tea, and working out the body and mind were all things learned through seeking help.

Writing is a great way to share your experience. I never thought I would get to a point where I would be writing about my experiences here on my blog for the world to see. I have found strength as a mental health advocate, and I don’t see myself doing anything else. Seeking help is a sign that you are coming to terms that something is wrong in your life. There is nothing wrong with seeking help, and we must tell those that are resistant the truth– it could mean the difference between life and death.

Together we can end the stigma, end suicide, and educate the world. No longer do we have to hide our illness because we are scared of the stigma. Let us fight.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Photo Credit:

Isaiah Rustad

Mikael Cho

Ana Tavares

Mikael Cho

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23 Replies to “Why do We Fight to End the Mental Illness Stigma?”

  1. In order to even begin to erase the harm done by ignorance, we need to be brave and inform. I was diagnosed bipolar 1, 4 yrs ago. It’s been a hard road, some times so overwhelming but I have worked through it. And been on lithium which has helped. Started talk therapy. We need to not be afraid to speak out! Great blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was very moved by this post. You’re absolutely right; sharing the experience, and not being ashamed of it, is one of the best things we can do. You are spot on. We have a long way to go, as a society, but we are getting there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As someone who has faced the beast at various levels of success and face-flat failure for decades, I carry a personal sense that the stigma battle is a bit out of focus. We write and talk and draw and scream to be heard by others. To be understood. To be known. But the real people who need to be sold on the very real truth that we are not broken most often are the ones who are starting at us in the mirror.

    We have to learn to recognize that we are not hopelessly crazy because we move through life differently and that we are worthy of life and love just as much as the healthiest person (we believe) that we see. Once we can do that, we can see the world with different filters. We can understand that every person we know struggles, and each of us faces some kind of mental illness at some or many points in our journey. Maybe every individual doesn’t find themselves staring into the terrifyng blackness of suicide and therefore can’t fathom the immeasurable pain and confusion of that moment (or in many cases including my own, those moments). But that doesn’t mean that they have it all together either.

    I believe that we fight the stigma with ferocity on the outside, but the real battle to be won, or more accurately, the moment of acceptance to be achieved, is within. Just a thought from this side of the screen.

    Best wishes to you and thanks so much for another beautiful post. ❤️ Jo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hate to hear bullying stories like that. It is so tragic that anyone would be driven to end their lives over bullying, let alone someone so young. This world can be so unkind 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really can be unkind. That story really got to me. Suicide at any age is never good but I can imagine having those thoughts so young. It’s a sad world that that young man couldn’t live in a world where he just wanted to be himself.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I started being incredibly open about my social anxiety a few years back after a few incidents where I had panic attacks and was treated badly as a result. Then I posted what was essentially a blog about it on facebook for all my friends to see. It helped people to see what I was going through, and though there were some people notably absent from applauding my efforts, most people were pretty damn awesome about the whole thing. I just feel that openness is the key (even though with social anxiety it can be difficult.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well said. I was afraid to get help for years because as an American living in the UK, I was wary of all the negative stereotypes about Americans. One of those was going to a psychiatrist or counselling because that was something ‘Americans do.’ I’m glad I finally let stopped letting that stereotype stop me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I LOVE this! Wonderful suggestions and together we shall educate. Thank you James for allowing me to be a part of this mission.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved this post, I agree whole heartedly. I just recently decided to blog about my struggle, and I can already see the benefit of doing so. The part I love the most about group therapy is that I feel understood, I am not the only one suffering. There are people just like me, and feeling alone is a big part of mental illness. I am thankful to have group therapy and the cyber community to join me in my struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This post is very well written and illuminates the ways in which we can heal holistically, and through the use of professional support. As a mental health professional, reading this post is empowering and promotes connection which is such an amazing gift that you’ve shared with your blogging community. Much of your work (which I have followed since joining WordPress), has inspired my blog https://wordpress.com/view/thehumanexperienc.wordpress.com
    I’ve begun trying to tie in clinical experience, life transition, and mutual connection to build a base that chooses to seek help, insight, and shot at healing because we all deserve it! Thank you again, and I hope you will read/enjoy my posts as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post James. I loved it. Very well written, of course. Bullying breaks my heart. Unfortunately, bullying happens at all ages and in many forms. Negative words wound, shame and can leave lasting scars. From my own experience, words are worse than sticks and stones… Sticks and stones may break my bones and… CRUEL, SHAMING, BELITTLING, DEMEANING WORDS WILL ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS HURT ME!!! I was abused when I was younger. I can’t remember the physical pain, but I remember how the shame and negative words hurt me and still do today. It is quite amazing how much of a lasting impact words can have on your life. Thanks for writing this James. Wonderful words of wisdom. I have been very busy getting my youngest daughter off to college etc. and have not had time to write much lately. Time to get back to my blog and writing again. I hope to have a post good enough to share on your blog soon. Thank you for sharing my words with so many. I appreciate it. You and your blog are simply amazing. Much love and peace, Sue

    Liked by 1 person

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