Why The Stigma Around Mental Illness Should End

Why The Stigma Around Mental Illness Should End

It's a problem that needs to be fixed
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Take a good look at me. What do you see? You see a fine foot five white female college student. But what you may not know just by looking at me is that I have been diagnosed with both Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, two mental illnesses. Although you can’t just tell by looking at someone, mental health disorders are very prevalent in the world. But unfortunately, mental illness, unlike physical illness, is too often surrounded by stigma.

Stigma, according to Merriam Webster, meaning “a mark of shame or discredit.” This stigma has brought turmoil to the mental health community and I propose that we end the stigma around mental illness because people resist medical treatment, mental illness is a serious affliction, and stigma is rooted in ignorance.

Rachel Griffith of Huffington Post put it very nicely. The stigma around mental illness makes people resist treatment. Sadly, therapy and medications used to treat mental illness are painted in a bad light. People think that therapy is for crazy neurotics and medications are “crazy pills”. So it makes sense that the shame and judgment surrounding treatment makes individuals with mental illness reluctant to seek help.

Often, people will use treatment as a last resort after so much internal chaos. I can say that I didn’t seek treatment until after the obsessive thoughts that consume me due to my OCD were nearly unbearable. Even though I was only thirteen at the time, I wish my parents and I should have sought treatment sooner, but the judgment and shame that goes along with therapy and medication for your mind are hard to overcome. So hard that in fact, people suffering from clinical depression and other illnesses commit suicide. That goes to show that stigma can literally cost lives.

But there is a common misconception about mental illness. This idea being that Mental Illness is merely having negative emotions and not anything serious. An article in Psychology today has a great point: people think that mental illness is the person’s own plight. Meaning that it’s all in their head, they’re just exaggerating or making things up, or they can turn off their mental illness at will. I can honestly say that that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Mental illness is just as serious as physical illness. The article in Psychology Today observes that some people who are mentally ill will distance themselves socially. This is an obvious detriment to a person’s, especially a young person’s developmental growth. And not just social difficulties but psychological and physiological issues that are brought on by mental illness are very serious. Speaking from experience, it can be just as painful for me to get an unpleasant thought out of my mind as it is for me to sprain an ankle. But the difference is that a leg heals, but mental illness can last a lifetime.

At the root of it, the stigma around mental illness derives from ignorance. People simply don’t know much about mental illness and what they do know is mostly based on inaccurate stereotypes. This ignorance was unfortunately reassured in the survey I conducted. When I asked students to share their honest thoughts on mental illness. One student answered: “we all have some sort of mental illness”. This response both infuriated and upset me because that idea is not only completely false but also because this student has been poorly educated on mental illness. However, the National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests a couple ways to help combat this ignorance that leads to stigma.

The first is to simply talk openly about mental illness. Don’t make diseases like Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder or OCD taboo subjects, talk about them openly with not only those with mental illness but also your family and friends. Another suggestion from the National Alliance on Mental Illness is to educate yourself and others about mental illness. Take a psychology course, it’s a core anyway, google different mental illnesses as well as some famous people who have them, the results may surprise you. But it’s clear that a lot of the stigma surrounding mental illness comes from ignorance, which can be combatted by speaking freely about mental illness and educating yourself and others.

As letstalkstigma.org promotes Silence=Stigma. We need to start a dialogue and understanding about mental illness because that’s one of the most powerful ways we can rebel against stigma, an ugly stigma that can go as far as literally taking someone’s life. The stigma around mental illness needs to end because people resist treatment, mental illness is a very serious affliction, and stigma is derived from ignorance. Now, let’s try to help millions of people like me end the stigma around mental illness and create a mo

Cover Image Credit: wikimedia commons

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Buying New Clothes Every Month Has Been The Key To Helping Me Become Happy With My Body Again

Loving my body in new outfits has boosted my self image so much.

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Being body-positive has been really hard for me to do throughout 2019, despite there being an overwhelming surge in body-positivity around me, whether through my friends and family or YouTube. I look in the mirror and what I see is someone I want to make a jean size or two smaller like in the past. That being said, I've slowly been coming around to accepting the body I have now, instead of bashing it constantly. A key way I've come to accept the body I'm in now is through buying myself something new every month, like a new T-shirt or a pair of jeans or sneakers that help me see myself in a positive light. When I'm in a new outfit, I feel invincible. I don't think about how pudgy my stomach is, or about the hair I have growing in random places, like my neck or on my nose (yes, not just in, but ON too).

My bank account tends to suffer as of recently because of this, but it's worth it when I can genuinely feel good in what I am wearing every day. I like to wake up and think about how many outfits I can put together, ready to post my #OOTD for Snapchat without caring what anyone thinks. I've let social media dictate how I feel about myself more than I care to admit. I see how perfect all the models are in everything they're wearing from brands I know and love, yet when I try the same thing on, it's a whole different ugly story.

I don't enjoy trying things on to avoid the shame I feel when things don't fit me right, or if something that I thought would flatter me actually makes me look like a sack of potatoes. Instagram has really hurt my body image a lot — enough to make me delete it for a week after one post sent me spiraling. Going through those bumps made me finally realize it's not my fault if something doesn't fit. Sizes range depending on the item, it's the clothing items fault, not mine. Now that I see that, it's easier to brush off something not fitting me as it should. I know my size very well in the stores I frequent the most, so it's easier for me to pick out things I know will look good and not have to worry about the sizing issue.

Buying yourself something new is not something you should limit to every few months or longer. You shouldn't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone price wise every once and a while either. Coupons exist, stories always offer you them when you first sign up to receive emails and even texts. You can be crafty and still get a high price item for less. If you treat yourself to cheap things, you won't feel half as good as you want to. Granted, sticking to a limit is important but there's no shame in going over the limit every once and a while.

I love shopping as much as I love country music and writing short stories — a lot. Yes, I get yelled at almost every time I get something new. I need to save my money for important things, like for my sorority or for medical issues that could suddenly arise, or for utilities at my house next year off campus.

However, my mental well-being is not something I can ignore.

I can't push the good feelings aside to save 30 or 40 bucks a month. I don't want to feel as low as I've felt about myself anymore. I'm tired of feeling sad or angry at who I am, and I want to learn how to accept myself as I am. Buying myself something new, like clothes, is what offers a positive light to view myself under.

Whether you treat yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant, or to face masks, or to a new movie when it comes out — don't be afraid to do it. Put yourself first and you'll realize your worth and how much you've been ignoring it in the face of poor confidence.

My confidence isn't back up to where it used to be, but it's getting there.

It may not be the most cash efficient method of self-love, but my body positivity is better than it was a few months ago. Aerie and American Eagle have really helped me become happier with my body, and I can't thank them enough for being more inclusive for people like me who are learning to love themselves again in a new body.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us hoping to promote our own body positivity, and it could all start with a simple purchase from your favorite store after you read this.

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