I am used to knowing people who don’t want to talk about mental illness because of the stigma and because they are not educated on the subject. Conversations dealing with taboo words like mental illness, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, ADD, PTSD, etc are uncomfortable to talk about.
It is not common for someone with a mental illness to let their boss, friends, and sometimes even family know they have one. The stigma is so strong and people are so uneducated. Most people have never taken the time to research mental illnesses because they don’t think it impacts them.
Well, it does impact everyone. Think about it: If 1 in 4 people have a mental illness, I would think it is near impossible for someone to not know someone with a mental illness.
Not wanting to talk about it is one thing. However, to totally shun people away who do share they have a mental illness, have a family member who has one, or bring it up because they suspect they might have one.
My hope is that more and more people feel comfortable in talking about mental illness, how it impacts them, and are able to educate others about what it means to have a mental illness.
It is ok to talk about having cancer, that your loved one has Alzheimer’s or that your child has leukemia. It is acceptable to share that you have diabetes or a thyroid problem without being judged, ostracized, and being made to feel like you are less than a person.
However, it is not acceptable to bring up anything to do with a disease that affects the brain called mental illness. Most mental illnesses are a result of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It is not a sign of weakness. It is not something someone should feel like they are weak if they have it. In fact, those who struggle with illnesses like bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and others really are strong. In order for those with mental illnesses to hold down a job, accomplish things, and to be successful, they often have to work harder than those without mental illnesses. In addition, it takes guts to tell someone else about their illness and/or to seek out treatment and help.
The “shh..don’t tell” mentality needs to change. I should be able to ask someone to sign a petition, take part in a walk, tell someone that I have bipolar disorder, or like my FB page dealing with my mental illness without shame. I should not have to worry about losing their friendship or losing a job because I share that I have a mental illness. I certainly should not have to second guess myself anytime I try to get others to help me with a cause or share my life story.
People like to act like they don’t ever get depressed and don’t know anyone with a mental illness. It’s embarrassing for many people to even talk about it. People who judge me because I have bipolar disorder are uneducated and are helping to strengthen the stigma. Frankly, I think a lot of these people are clueless. I suspect that they don’t even want to know about it.
You can’t be living in society today and not know anyone that has a mental illness. If you want to deny that then I would have to call you “crazy”. At least I am open to the fact that I have a mental illness and if people want to call me crazy so be it. However, those who hide behind an invisible wall where they and everyone they hang out with are free from mental illness are ignorant, not compassionate, certainly not caring, and uneducated. I would also go as far as to say they are discriminating against a group of people.
So, if you are one of those people who shy away from even the mention of mental illness, take off your dark glasses. You might find out that people with mental illnesses are not that different from you. They can be successful, they are often kind and caring and many are very intelligent. One might be your co-worker or a neighbor or friend.
Give it a try! If you are living in a world with no mental illness, you are living in an imaginary place and maybe you need to have your “head examined”.