Since 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental illness I can pretty much guarantee you know someone who has experienced something. Maybe you’ve witnessed a friend or a family member go through something. Maybe that person is you. Then why is talk about mental illness so hush-hush? Why do we feel like being depressed or having PTSD or anxiety is something to hide and to be embarrassed about?
The answer: Stigma. Since the dawn of time mental illness has been one of the least studied, understood, and talked about forms of illness; which is ironic considering the majority of people will experience or see someone they know experience some form of mental illness at some point in their life.
We’ve talked about depression here at Salt Lick Lessons because we’ve seen and experienced it and we think it’s an important topic to talk about. In my own life choosing to accept a prescription for depression took a year longer than it should have because I was embarrassed. I was worried that people would tease me and judge me. People would see me as less-than. Less than what? I’ve talked with others about how this stigma felt for them in their own healing processes and the stories are all the same. Everyone shares the same story about feeling judged and abnormal and most of the stories involve not seeking help as soon as they should have.
This is not in any way OK. It is a stigma that prevents people from seeking help, admitting something is wrong, and for some, it prevents them from knowing there are people who can help. This is the kind of stigma that causes some people to take their own lives or live without a safe home or fulfilling relationships. It prevents people from living their lives to the fullest or, tragically, from living at all.
How about we forget anything negative we have heard in reference to a mental health diagnosis? Let’s start fresh.
The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation. Glenn Close
A diagnosis does not define who you are. A mental illness does not dictate a person’s worth, intelligence, or humanity and it’s time we started talking about mental illness like any other illness. Rather than judging and feeling judged we should be nurturing and loving one another. We should be admiring each other for the strength it takes to step up and say “I need help” or ‘I can’t do this alone anymore”. The Presidential Proclamation for National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2014, begins with this statement:
Despite great strides in our understanding of mental illness and vast improvements in the dialogue surrounding it, too many still suffer in silence. Tens of millions of Americans face mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder. During National Mental Health Awareness Month, we reaffirm our commitment to building our understanding of mental illness, increasing access to treatment, and ensuring those who are struggling to know they are not alone.
The more we talk, the less strange it will feel to experience a mental illness. With discussion, more people will be comfortable finding help. People who don’t know they can get help will learn that there are options and places to go. Most importantly, if we can start a strong discussion about this everywhere, there may even be fewer people who commit suicide because they will be supported in finding help long before that happens.
If you or someone you know is or has experienced mental illness, you are not alone.
You are not alone.
Let’s start talking to help each other and in turn help ourselves. Let’s stomp out the mental illness stigma.