What is stigma? “A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person” according to Oxford Languages. Why is there stigma around Mental Illness? We only need to think about that for a little while and we’re faced with representations of “crazy” from movies and the past (insane asylums). But, why is it still here? I mean we live in a new age now. Mental health is at the forefront of almost every profession. We teach it in our schools through a Growth Mindset. Bell “Let’s Talk” and other businesses sell it to the mainstream public. Why hasn’t it reached the actual psychoses of mental illness? Why are people still afraid to admit they are struggling and seek help? Why are those who do seek help afraid to tell anybody? Why do those of us who have been struggling for years still want to hide behind lies because we are afraid of being “found out”?
Maybe it’s insecurities that are indicative of our diagnoses. Perhaps it is our own judgment of ourselves. Possibly we’ve just lived with it for so long that we fear there is truly something wrong with us, as people. The real question I have, is whether stigma lies solely in the truths we build around ourselves or is it actually “out there”? In other words, is the stigma we experience now, just in the minds of those of us who suffer from mental health issues or does the general populace actually exhibit it?
I can’t answer these questions for myself so I certainly can’t proclaim to answer them for anyone else. But there are a few things I can pass along to those who struggle with their mental health. First of all, if you haven’t sought help, do it now! Make it your first priority—today! Don’t put it off until it’s too late. There is help out there, you only need to ask. Don’t know where to start? Local hospitals, crisis lines, local CMHA, ask a friend, talk to your doctor, ask a teacher, your union rep, maybe even your boss or a colleague if you feel comfortable, but seek help. It is the first step in your journey. A journey that will be filled with ups and downs, trials and errors and success and failures. It will replicate life but it will help you to conquer it, to break out of your bubble and to become yourself. Living with mental illness is chaos and stability; all the dichotomies of life will come into play but it is learning how to live with these dualities that sets you free. Give it a try, please. Because we need more people like you not less and our fulfillment of life will be better with you in it. Don’t wait. You are special. You have something to share. You are one of a kind. Seek professional help and become a part of something bigger than yourself but of yourself.