Five Ways To End The Stigma On Mental Illness.

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.

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I Am One In Ten.

When I started this blog, my plan was to base it on surviving with depression. Granted, I didn’t want every post to be about depression otherwise this blog would become a bit of a downer. I try to keep it upbeat with my “Quote of the Month” posts and my “Get to Know the Blogger” posts. On occasion, however, sometimes I need to write a post like this one.

I am one in ten.

One in ten adults suffer from depression. In my case, I’ve been living with it since I was twelve years old. I suffered from it for five years before it got dark enough for me to reach out for help. I was seventeen years old. I had just started my senior year of high school. I was in the middle of a wood shop class when a very dark thought crossed my mind. I had seen the table saw we were about to be using and my brain… well, I’m sure you can all use your imagination.

I was in the middle of writing a note to my mother, one telling her how sorry I was and how I just didn’t know how to keep moving forward, when another student just happened to glance down at my notebook. The next thing I knew, he was dragging me to my guidance counselor’s office. I used to tell people that I was strong enough to know I needed help and went on my own. Truth is, I was closer to ending my life than I let on.

I was evaluated and admitted into an inpatient therapy program at the Reading Hospital in Pennsylvania. It was there that I finally explored the causes of my depression. It stemmed from many factors, some that I didn’t let come to light and some that I did. I confronted my father on what he did that caused me to shut him out since I was twelve. I confronted my inner fears of never being “good enough.” I started writing what my therapist called my future book: a series of letters to people in my life that explained how I felt, why I felt that way, etc. However, they will forever be letters that I never sent. I burned them several years ago as a way to put it all behind me.

Fun fact: burning letters or rants that gets all your thoughts out is slightly unhelpful.

While I was in the hospital, it was the first time I had realized I wasn’t alone. There were other teens like me. There were kids like me. There were adults like me. I learned coping strategies. I learned more about myself in that one week than I had in seventeen years.

In the ten (almost eleven) years since then, I’ve learned that depression is much more common that I had thought. Like I have mentioned, one in ten adults suffer from it. I wanted to start this blog to share my experience with it and may give a ray of light to someone out there who feels like the darkness is too consuming. I can’t promise you that the depression will go away, but I can promise there will be better days and brighter moments. It doesn’t stay dark forever. We develop from the darkness. We grow and adapt and learn. We become better versions of who we were.

I’ve been surviving for almost sixteen years with a rain cloud that always seems to be hovering. I have found things that help me keep the storm at bay. My things are artistic: writing, drawing, painting, photography, and anything else creative. Plus I have a wonderful support system: my friends, family, and kids. They keep me strong. And when my strength begins to wither away, they’re right there with a pick-me-up or a shoulder to lean on.

I am one in ten.

If you are one in ten, I hope you’re surviving well. I hope you have a support system. I hope you know how to battle your darkness. I hope that you talk to someone when it gets to be a little too tough on your own. You can reach out to me. Comment below, or send a message on my contact page, or reach out to me in some way. (I’m on Facebook and on Twitter.) You’re not alone.