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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50 Things To Be Happy About

It's the little things in life.
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It is always easier to pick out the negatives in life. We tend to dwell on them and drown out the happy moments. I asked a friend to tell me something that made them happy. They sarcastically laughed at my question then thought about it for a minute. Nothing. But they could easily come up with things that made them unhappy. Then I read them my list, and they were smiling and laughing in agreement the whole time. There are so many more things to be happy and laugh about than we realize. After all- it's the little things in life that can mean the most! Here are 50 things that make me happy. What are your 50?

  1. The first warm day of the year
  2. Laughing so hard your abs ache
  3. Freshly washed sheets
  4. Looking through old pictures
  5. The smell of a coffee shop
  6. Eating cookie dough
  7. Reading a bible verse that perfectly fits your current situation
  8. Seeing someone open a gift you got them
  9. Eating birthday cake
  10. A shower after a long day
  11. Marking something off your to-do list
  12. Drinking ice cold water on a really hot day
  13. Dressing up for no reason
  14. Breakfast food
  15. Being able to lay in bed in the morning
  16. Finding something you love at the store
  17. And it’s on sale
  18. Cute elderly couples
  19. When a stranger compliments you
  20. Getting butterflies in your stomach
  21. Taking a nap
  22. Cooking something delicious
  23. Being lost for words
  24. Receiving a birthday card in the mail
  25. And there's money in it
  26. Finally cleaning your room
  27. Realizing how fortunate you are
  28. Waking up from a nightmare and realizing it wasn't real
  29. Fresh fruit
  30. Walking barefoot in the grass
  31. Singing along to a song in the car
  32. Sunrises
  33. Sunsets
  34. Freshly baked cookies with a glass of milk
  35. Summertime cookouts
  36. Feeling pretty
  37. Looking forward to something
  38. Lemonade
  39. Comfortable silences
  40. Waking up in the middle of the night and realizing you have more time to sleep
  41. Surviving another school year
  42. The cold side of the pillow
  43. The smell of popcorn
  44. Remembering something funny that happened
  45. Laughing to yourself about it
  46. Feeling weird about laughing to yourself
  47. Printed photographs
  48. Wearing a new outfit
  49. The sound of an ice cream truck
  50. Feeling confident
Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

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Burnout Doesn't Just Affect Those In The 'Helping' Professions

Burnout refers to stress and exhaustion and it is commonly felt by those in "helping" professions - doctors, nurses, and EMTs, but burnout can affect anyone, no matter their job, career, or college major.

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When I was a senior in high school, I did a project about burn-out in emergency medical technicians. My mom is an EMT, and I spent a lot of time with her at the station. I would help her and her partner disinfect, wash, and check the inventory of the ambulances while she was on shift. I would help them make dinner, which, sometimes, she would be called away from.

It wasn't always dinners she would be called away from though. Sometimes she's woken up in the middle of the night, called away to a scene. And they aren't always "walks in the park"; sometimes they're violent accidents - cars flipped on their sides in the ditch.

Even though I spent an entire semester of my high school career researching burn-outs for emergency medical technicians, I didn't realize burn-out could affect college students in similar ways.

I wish I had all of that research about burnout in EMTs still handy, but I remember vaguely that burnout is a major reason why EMTs don't last very long in their careers. Burnout is a serious issue.

At this point, if you're wondering what "burnout" is, it's a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of lack of accomplishment.

Signs of emotional exhaustion include chronic fatigue; insomnia; forgetfulness/impaired concentration; increased illness; loss of appetite; anxiety; depression; and anger. More information can be found here.

Signs of cynicism and detachment include loss of enjoyment (which can be mild, like not wanting to go to class or being eager to leave, but it can quickly lead to all areas of your life, including the time you spend with family or friends), pessimism, and detachment).

Signs of lack of accomplishment include increased irritability, and lack of productivity and poor performance.

People also report having less investment in interpersonal relationships; this may be because people feel like they have less to offer, they have a diminished interest in having fun, or have less patience with people.

I know all of my friends are ready for spring break to get in gear. My friends have told me about their plans about visiting their boyfriend for the week, their family vacation to California, and so on, getting away from their stressors.

Last week I had a "mini-spring break" - I spent the weekend with my best friend. We laughed a lot, and I didn't spend a second worrying about homework. I got away for a little while, and last week I was pretty on top of my game.

This week? Not so much. It took me hours to come up with an article idea and executing it took over two hours. I have been struggling to do my homework and going to classes. I've been bogged down with all my "adulting responsibilities."

Burnout is a serious issue - it affects everybody from EMTs to college students. Remember the basics: get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise, are the first steps in getting back on track.

It's important to recognize what exactly is stressing you out. With that, writing down at least one way to modify that situation to reduce its stress, and implementing it into your routine. Psychology today recommends taking breaks between big projects, although I know as a college student that's not always an option. It also recommends controlling screen time.

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