I suffer from depression, anxiety, audio and visual hallucinations. In the short 19 years I have walked this earth, I have self-harmed repeatedly and attempted suicide. This does not define me.
The stigma on mental health is undeniable. It’s funny that there is shame attached to something that 450 million people worldwide are currently affected by and yet they are still seen as ‘just tired’, ‘moody’ or ‘anti-social’. I bet that every single person reading this will know at least one person affected by their mental health. If you think you don’t, you are one of many who ignore three inconvenient truths:
- As a society, we lack in awareness and understanding of what mental health is
- We are reluctant and ashamed to admit it, and mental illness is highly stigmatised
- Mental health is a condition regarding someone’s psychological and mental well-being. A person who is mentally healthy has the ability to handle stress, to find positive aspects of themselves and work productively. When this is not the case we often ignore it and brush it off, but what about when you are unable to?
I had depression for a year and a half before I sought help. I was encouraged by my mum after she saw that I had harmed myself intentionally. After going to my GP and him sending a reference to the nearest CAMHS unit (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service), I finally felt like I would be able to get myself out of this dark cycle. Sadly, I was wrong; CAMHS rejected the request of their services and we were sent back to square one. For months I was ashamed to tell anyone about the way I was feeling, which is often the case for anyone dealing with bad mental health. A survey has shown that of those with mental health issues most will be less likely to talk to someone simply due to social stigma.
There is this idea that those with a mental illness are weak, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those dealing with mental health issues are some of the strongest people you will ever meet. Imagine waking up every morning consumed by worthlessness but still putting a smile on your face. Imagine dealing with a darker version of yourself slowly killing you from the inside out. Imagine your reality is completely different to everyone else’s. These are just some of the scenarios that victims of mental illness face on a daily basis. Now, tell me again how mental illness is a weakness?
For the majority of my ‘dark days’, I was suffering in silence. There were very few who knew my suffering and this was mainly to do with the fact that I felt ashamed to be anything but ordinary. Little did I know that 1 in 4 people have a mental illness; had I known this when I first started developing symptoms maybe I wouldn’t have spiralled the way I did.
In my opinion, I feel that it is incredibly important for us to be educated on mental health from a young age. After all, conditions like ADHD and schizophrenia can be diagnosed as young as 7 years old. As I said before, you will know at least one person who is battling their mental health; whether that be alcoholism or depression, they’re valid illnesses and should be treated as such. Therefore enabling yourself to be educated on the matter helps the sufferer feel supported and more able to speak out about their illness. In addition, family and friends will feel less in the dark about mental health issues and may even be able to offer suitable help (this could be as simple as a hug). Together we will fight against society’s outdated views on mental illness.
To those with a mental illness, to you, I say that you shouldn’t let the stigma win. If you resist the stigma and fight it you are not letting it be a barrier, you are taking control of your life and are well on the road to recovery.