As most people will know, talking about mental health is something that is very close to my heart, and I think it is definitely important to speak about mental health more, because 1 in 4 of us will be diagnosed with mental illness. If 1 in 4 of us end up struggling with mental health, then why is there such a lack of understanding or knowledge around everything to do with mental health?
I remember that first moment, waiting to speak to my doctor, I didn’t speak, I didn’t do anything but I was with my mum and it was one of the most scary moments ever because I actually thought that I was okay. In reality, I was the furthest thing from okay, I was finally diagnosed with anxiety & depression.
So why is there so much stigma around mental health?
Stigma can be attached to mental health because people have stereotyped views of people with mental health issues, this can sometimes be caused by a lack of understanding behind various conditions, so it’s important for us to educate and understand what it must be like for people with different conditions.
Many people believe that people who struggle with their mental health are likely to be violent or dangerous but in reality the sufferer can be more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves rather than hurting someone else.
Another problem with stigma and the discrimination that comes with mental health can be that their problems can get worse because they’re worried about what people think or can stop them from getting help that can help them to recover.
Other effects of stigma can be things like:
- A lack of understanding by the people around them
- Difficulties finding work, school or getting involved in social activities
- Can be subjected to bullying, physical violence or harassment
From personal experience, I have found there to be a lot of stigma around mental health, especially online. People seem to think that the way that you’re online that you have the same confidence in person, ad that is something I definitely struggle with. I am this wonderful and bubbly person online, however, when it comes to being in person it takes time for me to be able to open up like that and be myself because I am definitely the type of person that worries about what people think of me. I know as a blogger that probably isn’t the greatest thing because you need a thick skin, but I’m learning and coping better!
How can we fight the stigma related to mental health?
This is one of the most important things in the world, because at the end of the day we should live in a society where we shouldn’t be worried about the way people will treat us in relation to our mental health.
- Understanding that getting help is important – If you realise that you have a mental health issue or you’ve been trying to dismiss that there isn’t anything going on, when in reality you need to get that support. Remember that seeking help is not a sign of failure, don’t let that fear of being labeled with a mental illness stop you from speaking to someone. Treatment is available for a reason, and the doctors see this every day, you do not have to go through this alone.
- Don’t let that stigma bring you down or make you feel ashamed – I know that is easier said than done, because you already feel bad enough about having that label, but you shouldn’t feel bad, you are an incredible person, you are allowed to feel any emotion you want, and no one should make you feel bad about your feelings. The most important thing is yourself, I know that is easier said than done, but people who don’t understand what you’ve been through or what it feels like to be in your situation. Please don’t let them dictate what you should feel..
- You are not your illness – When you get diagnosed with a mental illness you might say “I am depressed” or “I am schizophrenic” but what you forget is, you’re not your illness, you have mental health conditions, but that doesn’t mean you’re defined by it. Instead of saying “I’m depressed” you say “I have depression” and instead of saying “I am schizophrenic” you say “I have schizophrenia.”
- Be supported – Sometimes it can be easier to talk to a group of people who are going through what you’re going through, there are local and national groups who can support you through the times when you might prefer not to speak to your parents/friends about it. There are programs available to you but you will need to speak to your doctor about programs available in your local area.
- Realise that mental health affects so many people – It is increasingly important that people realise, mental health can affect anyone, it doesn’t matter who you are, and people can sometimes believe that to get over mental illness you just need some willpower, but it’s not that simple, mental health is a serious condition and must be offered treatment and support to help them through.
- Make mental wellness a part of school learning – This is something that is very close to my heart, we are taught about discrimination of people, and bullying, but when I went to school we weren’t taught about not discriminating against people who have mental illness, and by allowing our children to understand what mental illness is and how we can help them speak up about not only how they feel but to realise that asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure.
The important thing to remember is, regardless of your illness you’re an incredible person in every way shape and form, please stay strong!
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