Hey everybody! I’ve kept it pretty light for the past couple of months but this issue has really been weighing on my heart. I am ready to tackle it here. How do we remove the stigma that comes with mental illness diagnoses in America? This is an extremely multi-faceted question that I don’t think anyone has yet to answer fully. I started by looking at the facts.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around 44 million American adults experience mental illness in a given year. That’s roughly 1 in 5 people or about 18% of the entire population. Given its prevalence in society, I can’t help but wonder, why are we so afraid to talk about it? And what can we do to change the narrative from a negative to a positive one? Lucky for you, I’m not just going to leave you here with nothing. I have some ideas. Here are three ways that we can start, even in our own small circles, changing our attitude toward mental illness.
This may seem a little broad so allow me to explain myself. When I say educate, I don’t mean to
Since mental illness can be diagnosed as early as 13, we cannot wait until we are adults to be educated. I wholeheartedly believe that just as we teach Sex Education in schools to adolescents, we absolutely should be teaching Mental Health Education as well. Although, not exactly as we teach Sex Education because I think we do a very poor job of it. Abstinence-only Sex Education is about as effective as a screen door on a submarine. But, that’s a topic for another time. Many teen suicides and school shootings could potentially be prevented by just recognizing the problem and being able to help someone get the help they need.
I know it’s scary to put yourself out there, especially about something as taboo as a mental illness but, tons of people getting together is how you affect change and start a movement! Why should anyone have to be afraid of telling their friends or family that they’re having a hard time and they don’t know why?! If 1 in 5 people are going through it, then guess what?! You likely have a friend or family member who’s silently suffering too and wouldn’t it be so nice if we could just be honest with each other?
The more we make talking about it the norm, the less likely people will feel so embarrassed or disappointed in themselves. Mental illness is one of the few diagnoses that also comes with shame and beating yourself up. “Oh if I was just stronger, I could get through this.” “If I just wasn’t so oversensitive.” “If I could just calm down.” We literally berate ourselves for not being (**insert adjective here) enough. We need to start looking at mental illness for what it is…a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s not that you’re too this or too that, it’s that your brain is short-circuiting like a bad computer and no one telling you, “Calm down.” “Or you can get over this.” Is going to change that simple fact.
Last but not least, be compassionate, be empathetic and be supportive. If you’re one of the around 82% percent that doesn’t suffer from mental illness, be advocates for those that do. Know how to be comforting to the people in your life who are struggling. As I’ve stated before, your kindness could save a life. And if you are totally at a loss for what to say, I put together a blog post about what people with mental illness are definitely tired of hearing.
And now talking to the people who suffer from mental illness, if someone makes you feel small or isn’t the support you need, remove them from your life. Negative and toxic relationships have no place in your space. Don’t ever let someone invalidate the way you feel.
I hope that reading this will help you to make minor changes in your life. Because even minor changes can have
Rosé & Ruffles