Exploring Mental Health Stigma

December 3, 2019 at 5:40 pm

[Content note; this article contains references to mental health stigma and anxiety]

I’ve been stung one too many times from your innocent quip. The joking manner you use to soothe the sting does nothing but help your conscious.

I am not lazy. I am not ‘just worried.’ I am not ‘mute.’

I have a heart that beats so fast, I wonder if it will tire itself out.

I have a mind that tells me I am ‘weird’, ‘boring’ and ‘unlovable.’

No, I do not want to miss out on the fun.

But I fear if I come, I will be once more stung.

I wish I could be like you.

All wide-eyes with a pep in your step.

Charming everyone with your infectious laughter

I’ll go home after

And wish once more that I could be just a bit like you.

 

There’s nothing braver than putting on a smile for the world when your mind is slowly crumbling. You’ve had enough of your mental illness making you seem like you’re no fun. And what your friends think of as ‘helpful’ comments just dig the knife in harder.

Mental illness has for far too long been seen as something shameful or preventive. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard just calm down, it’s not that bad, surely?; or you’re not trying hard enough. These comments often add to the guilt of not feeling ‘better already.’ Of course, positive thinking and extra encouragement CAN be helpful, but it’s rarely as simple as that.

People struggling with their mental health often don’t want advice (unless you’re a professional that they’re seeking help from). You wouldn’t offer your opinion on marathon training if you’d never ran a mile in your life. So, why believe that mental illness is something people can just ‘snap’ out of?

The main reason for there still being so much stigma floating around is due to lack of proper education about the issue. The only uttered words surrounding mental illness in school came from my Religious Education teacher who referred to depression as a ‘dark and spooky place’ complete with jazz hands and a stupid expression for effect.

It makes me feel overwhelmingly sad that in 2019 people still feel they cannot talk about their struggles; either as a result of fearing not being taken seriously, or the worry that people won’t look at them the same or even thoughts of rejection. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s near impossible to imagine what a person suffering is going through. But the first step is kindness. Kindness and patience.

When I was at the peak of my anxiety disorder, I knew some of the ways I acted seemed ridiculous. Of course, I knew walking to the corner shop on my own should be a simple task. But it wasn’t, and I couldn’t articulate the thoughts that circled around in my head without feeling stupid. But no one should feel like that.

Until proper education is introduced throughout places of work and education, our best tool is to listen. If you suspect someone you know isn’t well, ask if they want to talk; ask if there’s anything you can do to help them feel better. But be patient. Sometimes they won’t feel up to talking about it or hanging out. To let them know you’re there for them and meaning it is more than enough. The bigger our support network, the bigger chance there is of getting them on to the path of stronger mental health and recovery.

This blog has been shared by Meg Headford, a student at the University of the West of England (Bristol), studying Creative and Professional Writing. Meg writes a blog covering mental health and lifestyle, which you can find here.

December 3, 2019 at 5:40 pm | Blog | No comment

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