We Are All Soldiers Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness
Sarah Fader recently wrote an article detailing the importance of fighting against the stigma of mental illness. The biggest contributing factor it seems is training the community to better respond when someone they know has a mental health issue. Here are three examples of phrases Sarah said people would say to her when she would try to discuss her mental health issues:
1. "Antidepressants are just a Band-Aid covering up the problem. Why don't you stop taking them and try to deal with your anxiety?" This is analogous to telling a diabetic to stop taking their insulin and see what happens. Mental illness is a real condition that can be debilitating if left untreated.
2. "You're being dramatic. You think too much. Why don't you just stop obsessing?" There is a chemical imbalance in my brain. My brain doesn't produce enough serotonin. Therefore, the result is I have chronic intrusive thoughts, depression and anxiety. Unless you would like to talk to the neurotransmitters inside my head and tell them to stop firing, I think we're done here.
3. "You're lazy." Quite the opposite, actually. I have to work twice as hard to do the things "normal people" do, such as wake up, get dressed and leave the house. I am constantly battling the thoughts in my head. I would call myself a "warrior.”
Her experiences are not unlike the same experiences many more people are having daily. Mental Illness is not something that you can ignore, and it shouldn’t be treated so lightly. It is much deeper involving chemical imbalances in the brain which is the same part of the body that controls the entire body.
As a society, we can take a stand against the stigma by starting with ourselves in our everyday lives. We can choose to validate and listen to others when they mention having issues with things like anxiety or depression. We can recommend people seek counseling services when it may be needed. Most importantly, we must realize that at the heart of this are people in our daily lives. Just like any other kind of illness, their issue deserves to be taken seriously and deserves our full respect. If you don’t understand, ask them to tell you about it. Ask how you can help and individually take responsibility to fight this stigma.