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

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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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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A Journey to Positivity

The journey to having a positive mentality is one that I still struggle with daily.


Look- I am not saying I am the most positive person in the world. I have plenty of days where I don't think I can do anything right, and days where I feel like I am on top of the world. I decided for the new year I wanted to seize every opportunity that came my way. Becoming more of a positive person for me means not letting my doubts stop me from achieving my goals and realizing even when things don't go as I planned there's still hope. Nobody is positive all the time and that's okay. There is a difference however, going through life actively trying to see positivity in your everyday life and assuming the worse. I have had a quitter mentality for a long time. The word "can't" was in my vocabulary far too much. I would constantly sell myself short because I thought some ideas/dreams were too far off for me to actually accomplish. When you have this mentality you watch others pass you by, accomplishing milestones whether getting a new job or writing a book. While I have always been proud in watching fellow peers accomplish their dreams, it dawned on me why I wasn't doing the same.

The journey to having a positive mentality is one that I still struggle with daily. It is comfortable to fall back into a place that feels familiar. Whether you necessarily like where you are or not sometimes it's easier to fall back. It truly hit me that I was allowing myself to be held back when I reflected on this past year. I realized I didn't take chances on myself from being scared of the unknown. I wasn't thinking positively and definitely not thinking I could achieve my goals. I decided for the new year I wanted to seize every opportunity that came my way. Now for some it's not easy to get up one day and just be "positive." When it doesn't come naturally it's something you have to work for constantly. There are plenty of self-help books on being more positive and steps to get there. One of my favorite books is In the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant. It focuses more on loving yourself and finding the love you want. While this book may seem like it focuses on romantic love it also delves in deeper to truly loving yourself and peeling back the layers of doubt and insecurities. Once I reflected on my past I realized there were a multitude of reasons why I wasn't seeing life in a positive mindset and knew I wanted to change it.

I found the easiest way to become a more positive person was to first write a list of things I wanted in life even if seemed far fetched. Within that list I focused on what I felt I could accomplish within this year and changes I wanted to make personally. The goal of being a more positive person is not knowing if everything you want is necessarily going to happen but allowing yourself to at least try. As well knowing even if you didn't get that internship or the best grade on an exam, there's always room for growth and learning. While I am still on this journey of seeing positivity in everything I do, I have noticed a change in myself and life around me. I stopped using words that deprived me of growing and excelling, and started focusing on what I have accomplished and realizing I have more to offer than I ever thought before. As well, making sure I surrounded myself with people who gave off positive energy and helping each other grow as individuals.


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