*PLEASE READ* THE STIGMA IS KILLING US *PLEASE READ*
Okay, I’ll admit we have come a long way in the last 10 years pertaining to the stigma surrounding Mental Illness but it’s not nearly enough and there has been way too much proof of that in recent weeks and months. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has ever suffered with a Mental Illness (both past and present day) has placed blame upon themselves for getting sick (myself included) because of the ignorance and irresponsibility of others. I’m also pretty sure that those same people have dealt with name calling and even been told that if they just try harder it would all go away (myself included).
One thing I do know for sure is that by having to endure these misconceptions brought about by society will lead many individuals to feeling ashamed and embarrassed for something that is not in their control (myself included), not to mention feeling like a burden to their loved ones (myself included) and therefore many choose to just suffer in silence instead.
According to the Mayo Clinic a “stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is a disadvantage.” These negative stereotypes couldn’t be a more accurate definition of many people’s harmful perceptions and beliefs toward individuals living with a mental illness and guess what; we aren’t all deranged, vicious threats to society as the stigma has also empowered many to believe.
A Mental Illness stigma can lead to all sorts of discrimination, sometimes in an indirect way, but many times it is directed right at the individual, but either way, it is very damaging and can lead to worsening symptoms. Often when the stigma is placed upon an individual suffering with a Mental Illness they feel an unwillingness to seek proper treatment for fear of being judged or excluded especially when there is a strong lack of understanding from family and friends.
Although I have become a strong voice in the fight to end the stigma surrounding Mental Illness, I still live with the warped perception brought upon by the ignorance of many people in society. It often leads me to feel ashamed, embarrassed and like a complete failure even as I advocate for change. And even though I feel these emotions I have not allowed it to stop me from continuing to advocate for change by speaking my reality, by allowing you into my most intimate thoughts and by educating others through my blogs and social media platforms.
What has kept me fighting is simply the fact that I now know that I have actually made a difference in so many lives, I have actually changed people’s lives, I have actually changed people’s perceptions surrounding Mental Illness and I have actually been shown so much gratitude and kindness from lives I have touched. Many of these individuals were too scared to ask for help before delving into my life and learning that it’s okay to not be okay and after speaking wholeheartedly with me have actually taken that first step toward helping themselves or a loved one.
I started off this article by telling you that although we have made great strides toward ending the Mental Illness stigma there is still a very long way to go. Last week I spoke of not one but two suicides which occurred right in my very own community and it was heartbreaking. What was even more heartbreaking was hearing that the system failed them, but the truth is, when someone who had been suffering in silence takes their own life, it is not the “system’s” fault, nor is it their loved one’s fault, the truth is it’s no one’s fault but the F*#@ING STIGMA. So who’s with me? Who’s ready for the greatest showdown ever? Who’s ready to stop the stigma from killing us?