Mental illness is a common issue in today’s world. 1 in 5 people suffer from some sort of mental illness. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am one of the 1 in 10 adults who live with depression. In the 16 years since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve learned a lot of not so wonderful things. One of those things is that there is a stigma that comes along with the diagnosis. A lot of people, whom are uneducated in what mental illness is or how it affects people, will label you a “psycho” without learning anything about the illness or the person diagnosed with it.
That brings me to this post – five ways to end the stigma on mental health.
One: Educate yourself. People are ignorant. It’s wise to educate yourself on all aspects of mental illness. Seek out resources. If someone you know has been diagnosed, focus on their diagnosis. I usually request that my friends or family do a little research on depression. It’s not just “feeling sad” or “being numb to the outside world.” Sometimes it’s needing a break between menial tasks because it took all your energy to do that one little thing. Sometimes it’s lack of motivation or passion for the things that you once loved. In my particular case, it’s a chemical imbalance. I’m not a “nutcase” or “someone who needs severe psychological help.”
Two: Learn to recognize the signs. If your friend or loved one is becoming more reclusive than normal or they are just “not themselves,” maybe it’s time to reach out to them. Maybe they stopped painting. Maybe they stopped hiking. Maybe they haven’t showered in a week or haven’t called you in a while. Maybe their dishes are piling up and their laundry has been sitting in the basket for a few days. These are all signs that they might just need a friend to reach out to them.
Three: Be encouraging. Be empathetic. Let them know you understand that they’re not okay and let them know that it’s okay to not be okay. Do not belittle them. Do not say “It’s all in your head.” (I mean, duh, mental illness.) Do not call them a “psycho” or a “nutcase.” Do not use labels such as: unstable, demented, wacko, or psychotic.
[Personal moment: Do NOT use their mental illness against them in an argument. Just because someone, like myself, has been diagnosed with depression does not mean we are terrible people. It does not mean I am a bad mother. It does not mean that I am psychologically unbalanced. My blog is not a cry for help. I promise you that I am more stable now than I was at seventeen. Making my blog seem like an unsafe place for me to write was a huge jerk move. But screw you. I’m going to keep writing anyway. Those who know me and are actually not ignorant on mental health will know the truth.]
Four: Challenge misconceptions. If you hear someone speaking about mental health in a derogatory way, challenge their viewpoint. Debate the myths. Educate them on the truth. It’s not laziness. It’s being exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s not being a Harley Quinn-esque “nut job,” it’s having a chemical imbalance or a misfire in the brain. Some pain isn’t physical and some wounds aren’t visible.
Five: Accept the person. Let them know that you love them and that their mental illness is not what defines them.
And there you have it. Five ways to end the stigma that sticks to mental illness. It’s time to stand together and knock out the bad misconceptions. It’s time to stop fearing mental illness. Stop assuming the worst in people with a mental illness. Build them up, don’t tear them down. Together, we can break the stigma.