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The Mental Illness Stigma

If you ever wondered why someone doesn’t talk about his or her mental illness? Well here are a few reasons!

It can discourage employment opportunities or promotions.  

Let’s be real, the truth is it does interfere with employment. I am a fairly educated person with a great resume; you would probably be shocked to learn that I have a life-threatening illness. Employers will probably google you. If the employer learns that you have a mental illness it is typically a “red flag”. You lose your credibility and it is seen as a weakness. You are discriminated against. They’re often judged and not given fair opportunities. If you ask me, having a mental illness (and surviving) makes you an incredibly strong person. If Bell is so determined to break the stigma, well, why don’t they openly hire individuals with a mental illness? Don’t get me wrong, I love the awareness and funding Bell has generated for the cause; it is truly amazing! However, it is a personal and serious issue to address. Anyone with a mental illness knows it can take a lot more than just talking but talking is a great first step. I believe it would be a better impact on the stigma if Bell were to lead by example in their work environment. By creating a safe space for mental illness in their workplace such as introducing sick days that include emotional instead of only physical sick days. Anything to show acceptance and that they’re actively working with this stigma to create a more accepting environment. An environment where workers can feel confident that their health is being taken seriously (physically AND mentally). I have no issue talking about my mental illness; typically it is the recipient who has the issue. I believe more people should be more accepting of others who have the courage to show vulnerability by talking about it. It is only natural for us to judge, but it’s important to work towards breaking this habit.

People treat you differently when they find out you have a mental illness. 

I certainly don’t want or need someone’s pity or attention to feel better about my mental illness or myself. Regardless, people will treat you differently at first. Remember, a mental illness does NOT define you. You get to choose what you like and don’t like. I have interests, hobbies, aspirations, and goals. I want to be treated like a person, and nothing less. Talking negatively about someone because of a label, time in a hospital, or certain medicines should not be tolerated. I will start being more open about my illness with you when you start accepting me as an equal. I’m sorry if you don’t understand my illness, but that’s your issue and I won’t allow myself to suffer because of it. Like Natasha Tracey said, “Much as people of different ethnicities have fought to be judged on their own merits and not the color of their skin, we, too, deserve to be judged by who we are and not simply what we are.”

Not all mentally ill people are bad people… 

 I’m getting tired of seeing media and entertainment abuse the use of mental illnesses to portray bad or evil people. Although I am not a huge fan of media, it is a very influential tool that we are responsible for. I say “we” are responsible for it because we are the ones who are paying for it. Reinforcing biased beliefs and stigmatizing attitudes toward people with mental health problems has to stop. If you’re interested in reading more about movies that mock mental illness please check out this article by Roger Dobson. This is not a new fact, it is just something that has not been given much attention. We are all individuals with diverse personalities. Do you like Robin Williams? Well, I would hope so, he offered a tremendous amount of joy to viewers throughout his career. I do believe we are progressing in the right direction, but I think we could do much better. Especially after discovering Robin Williams had committed suicide while battling with a mental illness (more info. here).

What do we do about it?

So while having a good laugh is what most of us want, we also have to look at what we need. With all that said, I would like to end this on a positive note. Please work with me to be this change and to help end the mental stigma. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that rights have to be fought for. If you want a change to happen, you have to be that change. Even if you think it is small and won’t make a difference. It will make a difference. If someone you know has a mental illness, please offer them unconditional love and genuine support. We are not alone, so let’s work together.

Check out my latest tattoo in recognition of mental illness awareness.

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