I’d hoped it would be much better by now, but mental health stigma still rages on. And we suffer in its aftermath.
I speak as someone with mental illness, and I am not afraid to share anything about those illnesses. But that’s not what this is about. I want to talk about stigmas, the disgrace and disappointment projected toward those with mental disorders or even the disgust we feel about ourselves. You see, a stigma can go either way, but mostly, it comes from the outside. So, let’s take a close look at where this started.
History of mental health stigma
It started in the Neolithic times when trephining was being used to cure mental illness. You see people of that time thought evil spirits were responsible for these types of conditions, and so they drilled holes in the skull to release evil spirits. Yeah, that’s what trephining is, scary huh.
No, the stigma is not like that now, and it has come a long way. However, it’s been called the mark of the devil, the punishment from immoral activity, and even a symptom of hysteria, which was considered a disease that only women had. It generally caused all sorts of symptoms, but they were all considered mentally deranged.
Anyway, for the most part, psychiatrists have abandoned the term hysteria altogether, and that’s a start. Now, professionals use facts in determining and differentiating mental illnesses.
Stigma around mental health still exists for many reasons. Truth be told, most of the people launching stigmatic statements are probably suffering from some mental or personality disorder themselves. It’s a most likely narcissistic disorder or something of the sort.
But the point is, stigma still exists because people don’t want to understand mental illness. It’s easier for them to push it away, keep calling it a demon, or simply see this illness as a mode of attention-seeking.
A few reasons stigma is still here
I’m sorry, but some people are just uneducated about so many things. Hey, there are millions of things that I don’t understand, I am sure. But when it comes to someone who suffers from a mental illness, you should want to understand them in order to help. Sometimes it’s the refusal to understand, because if they understand, then they no longer have a reason to hold a grudge against the sufferer’s symptoms.
I’ve seen it, and I sometimes live it. Then you have people who are just too lazy to do the proper research it takes to understand these illnesses and help break the stigma. That’s just a pathetic reason. Sorry, but I generally don’t hold back when I feel passionate about something.
Gossiping about symptoms
Do you know how else stigmas are used? Sometimes friends talk about that one friend who has strange symptoms, the one who has unpredictable symptoms, which most mentally ill people do. I know, I can be perfectly fine until I have a panic attack. I can be okay until I go into a rage, which is rare, don’t worry.
And I can also be okay right before I go to bed and sleep all day leaving everything disheveled and housework is undone. Stigma grows when you talk about your friends and their “odd” and “random” behavior. Here’s a good place to stop. Right here! Just don’t judge, and drop the gossip. It’s childish anyway.
Lies about danger
Many of us with mental illnesses are called dangerous people. Ignorant people say that we could get angry and suddenly become violent. Well, honestly, anybody could do that in the right condition, right time, the right environment and so on. It’s like when you compare deaths in airplanes to deaths in cars. Many people refuse to get on an airplane because they are afraid they’ll crash and die, but they are okay with jumping in cars all the time.
Guess what! More deaths have happened in cars than in airplanes, many more. So just because it’s a bit intimidating, seems scary, and operates in a different way, doesn’t mean it’s any more dangerous than the “sane” guys. Yes, we get angry or upset, but it’s usually because of something that someone uneducated has done or said.
They say we’re helpless
I have lived with mental illness since I was a child, officially diagnosed at the age of 18. I have managed to survive for many decades, and at times, without the help of others. That means completely independent.
Although I sometimes suffer from dissociation, panic attacks, and triggered attacks, I can also use logic to do amazing things. I’ve raised three sons who are all in gifted, higher level, classes. So, those with mental illness are not helpless and sometimes more than capable.
How do we break this filthy habit?
I’m sorry, but I see mental health stigma as a filthy habit. I see it as a lazy man’s way of walking all over others. I see it as a choice to not understand in order to get ahead or to totally ignore us. I’ve been around people who utilize stigma, and it’s painful. And I’ve tried to make friends with people I really shouldn’t have. Hey, I was just trying to fit in for my kids, you know, the sport’s mom stuff. But this is it. This type of behavior has got to stop.
So, how do we do away with mental health stigma? Well, we start with ourselves. Yep, I said it. People with mental illnesses can also use stigma against others with mental health issues. We must see this in ourselves and then stop.
After that, we must keep writing, getting that information out there for those who need it. We must keep asking our friends, loved ones, and neighbors to read this material. We should keep making movies that approach these stigmas, continue painting pictures that represent how we feel, giving us the opportunity to explain the stigmatic monster within the colors.
And no, we cannot make everyone see the truth, but if they can’t we can get away from them, and we should. Mental health doesn’t need a stigma to go along with its pain and confusion. What we need are love and understanding. Please stand with me against stigma.
Copyright © 2012-2023 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.