“Get over it, it’s all in your head.”
“You have no reason to be depressed. People have it so much worse than you.”
“People who kill themselves are cowards.”
“You take antidepressants because you aren't strong enough to deal with reality.”
“I mean you're just sad, how bad it can it really be?”
"So are you crazy or something?"
These are just some of the harmful misconceptions that surround mental illness.
I could go on and on about how ridiculous and harmful these statements can be to someone that suffers from a mental illness but it is impossible to explain the extent to someone who hasn't suffered from a mental illness. If you really don’t understand why anyone would “kill themselves.” If you really don’t get why people with anxiety and depression suffer.
Consider yourself lucky. You are lucky that you have never laid in your bed day in and day out crying for hours until the tears stop coming and you become numb. You are lucky that you have never felt so worthless and meaningless that you consider taking your own life. You are lucky that you have never had to experience the pain in your chest, the feeling of drowning and the extensive anxiety that comes with a panic attack. I am truly happy that you have never had to experience the crippling feelings that come with these illnesses. I am so happy that you have never had to suffer from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or any other mental illness. However, just because it has never affected you does not justify ignorance.
The lack of awareness about mental illness strengthens these misconceptions. It feeds into the stigma that surrounds it.
“It’s all in your head.”
Yes. It is in their head. But not because it doesn’t exist in their reality or because it is made up, but because their brain is sick. How is it that people know and accept that someone's lungs, heart, kidneys and everything in between can get sick but yet can't fathom that the brain, the most important organ, can also get sick. Just because the symptoms aren't visible to the naked eye, does not mean that they do not exist. Just because you can't see their illness it plain sight does not give you the right to undermine it. You do not get to dictate the health of someone else. When someone is at the lowest point in their life, the last thing they need is someone questioning the legitimacy of their suffering. So lets STOP DOING IT.
Don’t believe me? Here are some facts. Brain scans have shown that people with depression have decreased brain activities. It has been proven time and time again that chemical imbalances of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine play a huge role in several mental illnesses. Just because there is no known pin point cause or cure for these illnesses does not discredit their reality.
"Mental illnesses are uncommon"
According to https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/ , one in 5 American adults have experienced a mental health issue. One in 25 Americans lives with a mental illness such as schizophrenia, anxiety or depression. Want to know why these numbers sound so insane to you? Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. The fear of being judged, called crazy and told its "all in their head" has caused people to shelter part of who they are away from society. It has caused people to be ashamed of who they are over something that is completely out of their control.
"People with a mental illness can't function in society."
Only 3 to 5 percent of people with mental illness commit violent acts and aren’t able to fully function in society(mentalhealth.gov). EVEN THEN, there are a variety of treatments available to them to reintegrate them into society.
"People who kill themselves are cowards.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have an underlying mental illness. (mentalhealth.gov) Suicide is a deadly result of an illness. Lack of treatment, lack of available resource and the fear of being judged for asking for help, have led these people to believe that it is the only choice they have left.Yet people continue to attribute their suicide to a flaw in their character. People continue to call these people "cowards" who couldn't handle the "harsh reality of life". This needs to end. They are not cowards. They perceive reality from the distorted lens of their mental illness. They don't see things in the same way you do. Everything looks different. Their subjective experience is their reality. Maybe, just maybe, if people were educated about mental illness and weren't afraid to openly discuss the risk factors behind them, people
"Mental illness is romantic"
Stop romanticizing mental illness.
This is just as harmful as not talking about mental illness at all. Mental illness is not cute. It is not adorable. It's not something that can be cured by meeting your one true love or by smoking cigarettes under a night sky. Anorexia isn't sexy. OCD isn't quirky. Hallucinations are not beautiful. Being depressed does not make you artsy. Having anxiety does not make you cute. Mental illness is not romantic and it is not something that should be celebrated.
"Symptoms of mental illnesses are in the control of the person"
NOBODY CAN JUST STOP THEIR MENTAL ILLNESS. Someone with anxiety can't just "stop worrying." Someone with depression can't just "cheer up." Someone with anorexia can't just "eat." Someone that self-harms can't just "stop cutting." Just like someone with a broken bone can't just "fix their bone", people with mental illnesses can't just stop their symptoms, they need professional help.
"People are defined by their mental illness."
Having a mental illness is not a weakness. It is just like having a disease. They can be treated. They can be helped. They are not to be looked down on. No one is defined by their mental illness. You don’t define someone by their asthma. Just like you shouldn’t define someone by their depression. While many mental illnesses are chronic diseases, their symptoms can be kept in check with the correct treatment. People can have depression and not have symptoms for years. However, relapse is common. This does not make these people failures. It is part of the road to recovery. While having a mental illness makes things a little bit harder for these people it does not make it impossible. No one is defined by their mental illness.
If you take anything from this article, take this: SPEAK UP. Become educated. Be willing to ask questions. Reach out. Don't be afraid to shed light on these issues because that fear is what formed the stigma in the first place.
So I am here, speaking up. I have had depression and anxiety since I was 11 years old. While I have had times where it consumed my life and I couldn’t function, I have learned how to manage them and lead a normal life. I used to be afraid to say these words for fear of being judged, ridiculed and defined by it. However, In the past few years, I have realized that it is not only okay for me to speak up but necessary. I speak up so that hopefully in the future another 11-year-old girl doesn’t cry because she feels like she is to blame for something that is of her control or feel “crazy” and “wrong." I speak up for those that don’t have the courage to yet. I speak up so others won't have to suffer from stigma. I speak up to say that I have a mental illness. It is real but it does not define me. I speak up to stop these harmful misconceptions. I speak up so others will have the strength to.
I fell victim to the stigma of mental illness as the majority of us have but now I refuse to be quiet anymore. This stigma needs to end.