The mental health conversation is flawed but we can still help fight the stigma.
As a society, we have come a long way in bringing awareness to mental health and fighting the stigma. Unfortunately, there is still a heavy percentage of stubborn people who still believe that mental illness isn’t a thing. We can only do so much by spreading awareness and educating our peers; however, we can’t force someone to change their mind. I don’t care what the stubborn person says — everyone has experienced some type of mental health struggle during their lifetime. Our brains aren’t perfect.
Fortunately, we have more people now than ever that are allowing conversations about mental health to enter their world. When I was a teenager, people just thought I was crazy and looking for attention. To be honest — I thought I was crazy. I didn’t understand why I acted the way I did until I became educated on it.
I am so happy that mental health is being spoken about more, but the conversation is still flawed.
Here are some things we can do to help fight the stigma…
Be mindful while giving advice
We all try our best to give our friends advice, but some advice you may give to someone who is struggling with a mental health disorder can be damaging.
The following statements can be hurtful…
“You need to relax”
“Are you having an episode?
“Try to be more positive”
“You have nothing to be depressed about”
Have An Open Ear
The majority of the time we don’t need advice — we just want to be heard. Living with a mental illness is extremely painful. We have built up energy that needs to be released. We also do not want to feel like we are alone during this battle. We understand that people may not know how to help, but just being there for them is extremely helpful even when it might not seem like it.
Don’t Judge Us
Mental illness is very complex and can be easily mistaken for normal human emotions. If we are feeling overly emotional — don’t judge us. Some people may not be able to cope as easily as others. Everyone has a unique story that molded them into the person they are today. There is a reason behind every behavior and judging just only spreads negativity.
Talk More About Mental Health
The only way to normalize mental health talk is to talk more about it. If you are comfortable, share your unique story, talk about your struggles, become an advocate. If you don’t want to share your story, share facts about mental illness. Social media is so powerful these days. Use your platform to educate your audience. The more conversations we have with people about mental illness, the more people will get comfortable. Nothing is ever comfortable in the beginning and that is okay. We are all growing.
Speak Out if the Media is Misinterpreting Mental Illness
In my personal opinion, the media portrays mental illness horribly. They over exaggerate the illness which creates ignorance in the audience. They portray bipolar disorder as someone who is psychotic and kills people. I struggle with bipolar and I wouldn’t hurt a fly. I became angry that many movies use bipolar as the diagnosed disorder for the killers. It made me nervous to tell people that I struggle with this illness because I don’t want them to be scared of me.
The Netflix series, 13 reasons why is a good example of a show that incorrectly portrayed mental illness. The audience (including me) gave feedback to the show stating that it is not just bullying that killed Hannah Baker, but she could have had a mental illness that was not diagnosed.
The last season of the show brought up the conversation about mental health but did a horrific job. Long story short — the main character, Clay Jensen, suffered from hallucinations and couldn’t identify what was real and what was not real. His symptoms were so severe that they forced him into a psychiatric hospital. They diagnosed him with “generalized anxiety”. In my personal opinion, this is disrespectful to the millions of people who struggle with generalized anxiety. It is clear that they didn’t work with a mental health professional, but if they can’t properly portray mental illness then they shouldn’t have done so.
A lot of people turn to the media to get their information; however, the media blows everything out of proportion and as a result hurts the mental health community.
The more people that call out Hollywood on their lack of consideration for the mental health community, the more they would listen and make some changes.
Together we can help fight the stigma
Every single person's actions and voice matters. The more we fight the stigma, the faster it will go away. Never underestimate the impact you can make.
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