Getting Rid Of Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness
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Health and Wellness

Getting Rid Of Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Mental illness is not a sign of weakness, nor should it be a source of shame.

Getting Rid Of Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness
Douglas Mental Health University Institute

There is no doubt in my mind that we live in an age of growing acceptance. From watching the strides our country has taken in promoting gay rights, and racial and gender equality, among many others, we have an incredible inability to settle with what has simply been handed to us.

We are the generation of progress and continuous improvement, protesting for what we believe is humane and fair, which brings me to the great injustice surrounding pre-conceived notions of mental illness and therapy, that I myself am protesting.

The stigma surrounding mental illness, like any other prejudice, is rooted in the beliefs of generations before us. Until deinstitutionalization during the early 1970s, those who suffered from mental health issues were separated from the rest of the community and grouped into psychiatric hospitals based solely upon the commonality of their illness.

This segregation has led people to instinctively concentrate on the differences of those with mental health problems, instead of seeing someone who is suffering from a mental illness – meaning their mental illness is only one tiny portion of who they are as a whole – we often characterize someone AS their mental illness.

The misconception lies, frankly, within ignorance. Some of us assume our brains are invincible, and therefore we believe we should have the capability to “snap out” of our depression, anxiety, or ruminations on command; but we as humans are nowhere near invincible.

In Paper Towns, John Green writes, “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person,” and this embedded stigma is a result of this so-called "treacherous thing." The truth of the matter is we are not as capable as we would hope to be, so to hold ourselves accountable to such high expectations is justifiably unfair.

During my first therapy session, I remember saying, “I never thought that I would be someone who needed therapy,” implying this embedded disassociation between myself and mental illness. I had gone in with the idea that needing therapy was a sign of despair, a last resort, in a sense because I had previously depended so strongly on myself, and myself only, to sort through my own problems.

I started therapy with the mindset that I was someone who needed to be fixed instead of someone who had the opportunity to better myself, and although there is a fine line between fixing yourself and bettering yourself, the line still exists. Society implies the notion of fixing yourself suggests there is something wrong with you, when in reality there is nothing wrong or degrading about mental illness.

Mental illness is not a sign of weakness, nor should it be a source of shame, and I truly cannot stress how important that is.

For some of us, mental illnesses are an unknown concept: we may not have been exposed to the reality of those living with mental health issues, and, therefore result to assumptions to make sense of what we do not fully understand.

As humans, our instinctual response to the unknown is fear, and with fear comes these prejudices and misconstrued ideas. In this day in age, however, I am confident that our intellect can override instinct.

I believe that with a few hypothetical picket signs and theoretical bull-horns, we have the power to stifle this stigma so people suffering from a mental illness can shamelessly pursue the treatment they deserve.

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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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