You’ve probably experienced stigma of some sort in your life, whether it be about mental illness or something else. You know it makes you feel invalidated. You know that even if a person is friendly with you, they may be carrying these thoughts that is, by all means, a stigma.
I’m going to be talking about mental health stigma because it is so prominent in my life. I’m sure you’ve all heard the things people say about the mentally ill. We’re weak. We’re crazy. We don’t understand “normal” people. We walk around talking to ourselves. We don’t take care of ourselves. We are violent. We aren’t intelligent bc our minds are broken. We look a certain way, so that we can be identified and kept away. We’re judged and people don’t listen to what we say bc we can’t be trusted and can’t possibly understand. That’s just a few… there are so many more. This stigma is what keeps people away from seeking help, which is one of the worst things you could ever do.
To those who know nothing about me would never think that I had a mental illness. The only reason for this is because of 21 years in the system, multiple med changes, medical problems, and being shuffled around so much that I have no idea how many psychiatrists I’ve seen. They wouldn’t think I had a mental illness bc my medications are working the best that I’ve ever experienced. And I don’t show the crying fits, the days I sleep so long that my mom has to come into my room at 4pm concerned. The only people who “see” my panic attacks are family and possibly very close friends if I happen to lose it when they’re around.
You would think someone who doesn’t “look” or “act” mentally ill would be one more step towards showing people the stereotypes they’ve developed aren’t completely true.
Instead, when people find out, they go over every time they spoke to me. They analyze everything I’ve ever done. They find tiny holes in my armor. And then they put me in a box and label it “mental illness” so that everyone knows I’m “crazy”. Worse yet, when they find out my diagnosis, I’m immediately labeled “violent” as well, not understanding that I’m actually more likely to be the victim of violence instead of causing it.
This is what makes me sad and angry. I’m the same person you knew the minute before finding out as I am the minute after. The same person. A label doesn’t change the fabric of who I am. But, that’s the way it is seen.
I thought that, finally being on the right meds, not showing symptoms to anyone, and proving that someone without all the signs of how mental illness is going to start to change misconception. It doesn’t… I get forced and shoved inside that “mental illness box” I mentioned before, and everything that I’ve accomplished to fight these diseases is forgotten.
Stories like mine make people so afraid to seek help. They get scared to say one word bc they don’t want to be in the box. It shows them that no matter how they feel or look put together, people will still be looking at them as their diagnoses, and not as a person.
The fact that stigma is still so prevalent now, more than ever (except when mental illness was am automatic trip to a mental asylum and left there for the rest of they’re life).
Suicide rates are so high because people don’t want to get help due to stigma., especially men.
We need to fight it. We need to open peoples eyes. We need to be talking about our illnesses. We need to talk about it openly and without fear.
Stigma prevents us doing those things because of the fear that encompasses us all the time. We need to not be afraid if people are talking about us. WE NEED TO EDUCATE.