Why is there such a stigma attached to mental illnesses?
Is it taboo to tell others that you have high blood pressure?
Should it be hush-hush that your spouse has heart disease?
Would you be worried about telling others that your child has diabetes, waiting to hear “You just aren’t disciplining them enough”?
Of course not. So why should we hesitate to tell others that we, or a loved one, suffer with depression, anxiety, ADHD, Bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness?
Having a mental illness, such as depression, is no more controllable than having a physical illness, such as cancer.
Imagine if you will, someone saying the same things about cancer that they do about depression:
“Well you just need to think more positively, then you won’t have cancer anymore.”
“You have a good life, there is no reason for you to have cancer.”
“If you stopped feeling sorry for yourself your cancer would go away.”
It is unthinkable that someone would say such things to a person with a terrible illness like cancer. To be honest I had a hard time just typing those words. But, those words are said to people with mental illnesses on a regular basis.
The root of the problem is ignorance. Even though there is a wealth of knowledge at all of our finger tips. So few use this available information to improve how they interact with others.
The fact is, the human race is scared of what is different. But what if people realized that more suffered with these problems than they knew? What if they realized that mental illnesses aren’t all that “different” after all?
Some people chose to be ignorant, there is nothing we can do about those types of people.
However, the majority of ignorance is because people have simply not had an opportunity to learn what mental illness really is. They are not aware of how prevalent mental illness is.
What exactly is it that causes mental illness? According to MedicineNet, “many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors — not personal weakness or a character defect.”
Mental illness is not something anyone would choose. It is not simply feeling sorry for oneself. It is not simply being weak.
Like any sickness, these illnesses are thrust upon us. We do not have any reason to be embarrassed. There is every reason however, to share with others what it means to live with mental illness.
If we stay quiet and hide what we are suffering, how will others ever understand us? It is time for us to speak up!
Yes it is scary to feel so open and vulnerable. Yes people will hurt you. But you will learn who you can be open with and who you can not. Most importantly you will be making strides towards eliminating this supposed ignominy.
Breaking down the stigma attached to mental health problems is not something that will happen over night. It will take time and determination.
We can each take steps, even leaps, towards that goal by sharing our story. By letting our voice be heard. By speaking up and saying “I am someone that has a mental illness and I am not ashamed.”