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

Ignorance

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.

Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    John schalk

    Hi sherrie i am a 62 year old male and i am a identical twin back in 1997 my twin had an episode docters diagnosed him as having bipolar the very next day i was admitted to hospital as well they said to me that my twin has bipolar and i have a condition called (folie a deux) its a french name not sure of the spelling i know very well what you mean when you say stigma my sister has used my illness against me for many years now i spoke to a nurse about this she said that my sister is using my illness as a weapon against me that made a lot of sense understanding to me what my sister was doing to me mentally… she also teamed up with my wife using mental illness agaist me so what i did was ban my sister from coming to any funtions at my place now my wife and i have a better relationship regards john

    1. Sherrie Hurd
      Sherrie Hurd

      John,
      Unfortunately, your loved ones will use your illness against you. Sometimes, this means they have an illness of their own that they are trying to mask with yours. Most of the time, people who do this have never been diagnosed, thus, they have not admitted to who they really are. When you are mentally ill, two things generally happen: They say you are using your mental illness for an excuse for your bad behavior, or they blame your mental illness on what’s wrong with your relationship with them.

      Let me tell you a secret, and I want you to keep this next to your heart forever, You are probably saner than most of the people you deal with because you have come to terms with what and who you are. Maybe you fall apart sometimes, maybe you have panic attacks, etc, but you are transparent, which is rare in this world today. Most people are walking around wearing masks, pretending to be completely sane, when they could blow like a bomb any minute.

      I get it I’ve lived it, and sometimes I still do. The best weapon you have is your strong self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence. And if they ever say “You’re so insecure”, It just means you confronted them and they’ve turned it on you. Insecurity is not liking who you are, which is quite different than standing up for yourself. Remember all this, and stand tall and proud. You know who you are.

  2. Avatar
    Lily

    Hello Sherie,
    I agree with you about taking a stand against stigma. I have been stigmatized and now recently even told I need help for my “depression” and they even suggested a treatment. This person is my sister. A sister who prior had advised me in very clear words (in a text) that she wanted nothing to do with -this, that or the other- with regard to myself & other family members, etc.She uses tactics of inflicting guilt and bringing up issues of the past to then make you feel a certain (strange) indebtedness to her.She creates arguments sometimes in family gatherings out of nothing and for no reason. I’ve been observing my own family for many years, I am the youngest. And I admit that surely we are all messed up form our upbringing, our past, but she is the master manipulator in the family. I catch her a lot of times contradicting herself. (although I never bring it up or ‘call her on it’ anymore because its n opportunity for her to create a new argument, that I am tired of) .
    She told me a story of the guilt she drove into another person, then years later suggested “the treatment”. Clearly she did not recall she told me this story. Anyway, sadly this person being young and feeling responsible (because of the guilt she drove into them) went for the said treatment and is doing better. Whatever it was it supposedly worked. HOwever did he really have to get to that point. HOw do you mess up a child’s mind so much then use it against them?
    I have not spoken to her since she suggested the “treatment” to me. I don’t need her. If in fact and perhaps all it is that she pretends to care, but does not really, or wants to act before others that she “feels responsible” for me (&others) than she needs to stop pretending she is a good person, and that she “always falls short” and she simply should not do that thing which she really does not want to do, to begin with and stop pretending. I could go on, but will stop here. You have several other articles I have read which made me think of this issues as well. like your article “What’s the Difference Between Grief and Depression? 6 Things That Separate Them” I could relate on much of it, but coming from the perspective of the above story.

    Thanks for your very informative articles.

    Sorry about any typos.

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      The first thing you should keep in mind forever is that no one else can be an authority on your mental health when they are, in fact, dealing with issues themselves. Many people will put their own insanities on others so their own lives look normal in comparison if that makes sense. What you should focus on is being a better you every single day, despite any failures or mistakes. I know you see these things in her, but she has to see them for herself. We are all responsible for ourselves when the day is done. If you can help someone else, then do it, but if help is refused and denial is embraced, then you should step back and let them work through their lies…and they are lies, lies told to themselves.

      Thank you for reading, and I hope I can help answer any questions you may have in the future.

  3. Avatar
    Lily

    Thank you so much for your response.

    1. Sherrie Hurd, A.A.
      Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

      You are welcome and hope all is well.

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