Mental illness stigma is out of control. In past years we have been to Iraq; businesses have been bailed out; crazy oil spills have destroyed underwater life; people are just now waking up to climate change … and we have yet to really discuss mental illnesses or mental health on a broad scale.
It’s the saying that everyone knows, but no one wants to admit: out of sight, out of mind.
Is this really true, though? How many people know someone with a mental health issue? Or have one themselves? If any one of these people would come out of their mental health closets and just tell one other person just how much they suffer day to day, would the world be stigma free? How “out” can mental illness be before people stop seeing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and freaking out?
Let me use myself as an example: I am 28 years old. I was diagnosed Christmas of 2012 with bipolar disorder. Before I was diagnosed I was an independent, adventurous, fun-loving woman with so many dreams and aspirations. Now, my mental illness makes me feel depressed and angry most of my days. I have taken about six medications in my life and I have hated all of them but one, so now I self-medicate with my own methods—which doesn’t help me at all.
My illness gets in the way of everything I do. I cannot hold a job because after a couple of months I hate going, I hate waking up for it, and I hate myself when I’m there. I feel like my illness is a cop-out, but it affects my life so much that I always succumb to it. I am Dr. Jekyll. I am Mr. Hyde.
I have only told a couple of people in my life about my illness; I use an alias online when I blog about my illness. I feel like the POSER of the mental health world. It’s so hard for me to use my name and let people know who I really am. Although my diagnosis isn’t as severe as some, I still feel as scared to even put down my symptoms.
This is stigma. Stigma stops you from applying for jobs because of the fear of getting caught taking meds at work. Stigma stops you from telling your friends why you have to take time out of school. Stigma kills. We, unfortunately, can’t kill stigma. We can’t Chuck-Norris it with a roundhouse kick, because mental illness stigma will never go away. I know some of you are ready to send messages saying, “How dare you! We can take down stigma!” You are correct. We can take it down, but we can never kill it.
As long as media portrays mental illness as the bad guy every time someone—who may not have been taking his or her medications and probably didn’t get the help he or she needed—goes into a place with a gun or does something horrible, the stigma will never go away. Stigma is here for the long run, but so are we. My advice to our mental health community is to join together to make our community even stronger—stronger than the stigma. This is the way we can weaken it.
Bringing people who don’t experience mental health issues to a better understanding about what we go through will help make it easier for the world to portray us better. Not being ashamed of something you couldn’t help in the beginning or the end will help, too. These are ways we can make it better for our future soldiers who will fight the stigma fight.
I hope to raise awareness to all people about mental health, because mental health isn’t about illnesses; it’s about how to grow and maintain the best our minds can be. The stigma of mental illness will always plague me, but it will not overpower me anymore. So …
Hi. My name is Tempus Bell; my stigma alias is OhTemp. I have a mental illness, and this is my declaration to fight!
OhTemp writes a blog called Bipolar, Unemployed, and Lost, which you can read at bipolarunemployedlost.com.
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