How To End Mental Health Stigma
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Mental Health

We Can End The Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness By Changing The Way We Talk About It

This is my plea to the public: End this stigma. Because it can in fact end with you.

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We Can End The Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness By Changing The Way We Talk About It

When people think about mental illness, do you know what they picture? They imagine some crazed lunatic who is going to kill them, chop up their bodies and bury them in the basement.

Yes, it is that extreme. They have a skewed sense of what mental illness is because society has kept it taboo.

Have you ever considered the language you use to describe things? For example, you'll call the weather "bipolar." Or you won't touch someone else's pens because you're "so OCD." And my personal favorite is when someone describes another person as "crazy."

Does anyone actually know what those terms mean? Because I can promise you that if you did, you would not use those terms so lightly. Plus, you're technically using them incorrectly.

Mentalhealth.gov just published an article, reminding everyone that one in five Americans has some sort of diagnosable mental illness during their lifetimes. Let that sink in for a minute.

The most common mental illness is anxiety. The misconception here is that anyone who has anxiety symptoms has an anxiety disorder. But actually, in order for it to be deemed a mental illness, your symptoms must cause you to deviate from the norm in a way that causes you distress or disrupts your ability to perform everyday functions. If you have anxiety about that exam you have coming up, that doesn't count.

Now back to those terrible phrases everyone uses like it's no big deal. Let's put something into perspective here. Can you just walk around classifying different stuff as the "N" word? No, you cannot. Because it's rude and disrespectful.

Well, the same goes for using mental illnesses to classify things. In doing so, you are unintentionally making fun of someone with mental illness. Do you walk around making fun of someone with a physical disability? Once again, no. People would deem you a jerk, and strangers would probably say something to you.

So why is it so different for the illnesses and disabilities you can't see?

Let's start with the phrase "The weather is so bipolar." Firstly, you sound uneducated. And secondly, you're insinuating that the weather may have periods of time during which it feels invincible. Or you're saying that it has periods of inexplicable rage. Well, the weather cannot have either of those. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I just described the end of the world, and as far as I know, there aren't any other "the world is ending" theories currently circulating.)

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. A person with this ailment is unable to control their shifts in mood. This causes them to engage in odd behaviors like compulsive spending, having a lot of startup business attempts and switching their major multiple times. Many people with bipolar disorder are unable to complete school without treatment.

Someone who loves to clean or likes things a certain way is not obsessive compulsive. They are clean and organized. OCD involves doing repetitive actions because of anxiety that can not be deterred. Now, if someone cleans a certain item several times back to back, checks the locks on a door an extreme number of times or washes their hands so much that they bleed, that's obsessive-compulsive.

Let's think back to the statement about the pens. Do you see the difference? Do you see why it is not appropriate to use that language in that situation?

"Are you crazy?" That's another phrase used so often that nobody bats an eyelash. It is the norm to use phrases like that, but the norm is not always right.

Referring to someone as having any form of psychotic disorder is just as insulting to that person as it is to someone who is mentally ill. Why would you compare someone to a person who had a sudden decrease in cognitive ability upon the onset of the illness? They are no longer able to live a fulfilling life. They hear, see and feel things that are not there. They have a warped sense of reality. See what I mean?

The stigma surrounding mental illness comes from the unknown and from the fact that the mental health community is constantly changing. They are now on the fifth edition of diagnosing criteria since the 60s. Just think, being gay used to be classified as a pathology. In the late 70s, it was removed from the manual because, well, clearly it is not a disease.

When people cannot understand something, they fear it because people fear the unknown. But people with mental illness live in fear all the time. They are the targets of cruel acts too, but no one talks about that.

It's time that we all became educated on mental illness. Most mentally ill people function with some intervention. They get to live completely normal lives, and you would never know. But you could be insulting a complete stranger because you do not see it.

This is my plea to the public: End this stigma. Because it can in fact end with you.

When people are saying the wrong things about mental health, you can share your knowledge and show them the errors of their ways. You can get involved with your local communities, donate to a campaign to spread awareness or even share this article. You'll help get this point across to people all over the United States.

We all want to be equal in this world, and there are campaigns advocating for all the minority groups being mistreated. Well, the mentally ill community as a whole is a minority group with people from all walks of life.

Mental illness does not discriminate. It does not care if you are a circle or square. It doesn't care if you're white, black, purple or green. It especially does not care whether you're rich or poor.

People from all walks of life have mental illness, and it's time that society sees that.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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