When it comes to mental illness, our society is either accepting and helpful, or ignorant and avoidant. We live in a world where if you break your arm, everyone comes rushing over to sign your cast and to offer support, but if you tell people you are depressed or have bipolar disorder, everyone begins to run the other way. That is the stigma ladies and gentleman. We are so use to our body parts breaking down, but not our brains. Our society needs to realize that not everyone is the same. Not everyone is going to follow the sheep heard of what is today’s society. It’s time for our society to start talking about mental health.
Personally I have learned so much about mental health and the stigmas that are associated with it. I have read books and have had many real life experiences and interactions with those who have a mental illness. Some of the things I see are just plain sad and degrading. I work at a camp with special needs kids and almost every single time we leave the building and go out into the community we get those distressing stares and ignorant comments from those who obviously don’t understand. But at the same time, they may not have much knowledge when it comes to that kid’s disorder and their comments may come off as rude when in reality that was not their intention at all. They were just curious but asked the question in the wrong way. For example, one day at summer camp we took a trip to Petsmart and one of our participants started to have a huge meltdown in the parking lot. As this was happening, an older woman (who also saw us in the store) walked out of the store and mentioned how patient and considerate we were at defusing the situation, and asked for our organization’s number so she can call our boss and tell her what she saw. When we got back to camp our boss said she got a very nice call from a lady who saw us handling a meltdown in the Petsmart parking lot. But her comment on the phone was very interesting. She called and said, “Oh my goodness your staff did an awesome job on working with the retards and remaining patient while he was having his temper tantrum.” She was very polite and curious, but she phrased it wrong which could easily come off as offensive but we knew that she did not know that the word retard is not an acceptable term anymore and she was very understanding about it when we told her. This happens all the time, you see other people ask questions but they phrase it wrong which can really get a dedicated advocate and parent very upset. If you are curious about a mental disorder, just be careful what you say and how you phrase your questions. To you it may not seem offensive, but to them it could be very agitating.
One of the scariest things about certain mental illnesses is that you cannot notice them until either something tragic happens, or they come out and tell you what they are going through. A couple of my dear friends have came up to me before and told me that they were depressed. My reaction was full of shock and surprise. I would of had no idea, not even the slightest clue that they were suffering from a mental illness if they never told me about it. When a person takes his/her life, family and friends will most likely say that they had no idea that they had been struggling with depression. That I believe is one of the scariest parts about suffering from a mental illness. Not knowing, when the whole time you could of been helping them through it. That is what leaves a deep hole in my heart. I need to understand though that it’s not easy to say that you are battling with depression or that you have bipolar. They are terrified what people will say. They may think that they will lose friends, or people will immediately begin to terrorize them making everything else worse. Those who suffer from a mental illness are stronger than we think. They must fight to go to work, care for their families, and act “normal” while battling unimaginable pain. It truly amazes me listening to their success stories and what exactly they have been through. Seeing and hearing stories like that really make me so happy because they really realize that there is hope, and that life is truly worth living.
Do more, share more, give more, create more, and what you need will be there. That is one of the quotes I live by. Surround yourself with people who will help you become a better version of yourself. Remember, you are not alone and it is not your fault. Your mental illness is a part of you. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and biases in our society is something that puts shame on all of us.