Mental health can feel like a touchy subject sometimes. Many people don’t like to talk about it. Some people feel embarrassed admitting to others that they struggle with mental health issues. Heck, some people even have a hard time admitting it to themselves. For some reason, there is still an inexplicable stigma surrounding mental illness — this totally common human experience that one in every four people deals with at some point in his or her life.
1 in 4 people. That’s like us avoiding talking about asthma (oh wait, that’s 1 in 12 people.) Okay — it’s like us not feeling comfortable talking about arthritis (1 in 5 people). Seriously?
Why are we still tip-toeing around this topic that so many people deal with on a daily basis? What can we do to break the stigma and get to a point where mental health can be talked about openly, comfortably, respectfully, and without judgement?
I feel pretty passionately about this topic. Having both observed and experienced what struggling with mental health disorders can be like, I am ready to try to affect a little bit of change from my small pulpit. People suffering from mental illness deserve to be recognized and supported with open arms, hearts, ears, and VOICES.
In my experience, most people support those struggling with mental illness with open arms, hearts, and ears. It’s hard not to feel and express sympathy when you see someone going through something painful, or scary, or depressing. It’s supporting with our voices that can feel the most difficult. It’s one thing to feel a certain way inside about something “controversial” or “uncomfortable” but then keep your mouth shut when asked to talk about how you feel about that thing in a public space. It’s another thing to have the courage to voice an opinion in an effort to affect change and erase stigma. Many people don’t realize how important our individual voices are in this movement.
I’m ready to shout it. Will you shout with me? There is no shame in mental illness! And there should be no more stigma! I have struggled with depression, and I don’t care who knows! I struggle, and I get through it, and it makes me a stronger person. If there is someone out there who thinks less of me for that, it doesn’t affect me. Because mental illness doesn’t define me, just like asthma didn’t define JFK, and arthritis didn’t define Renoir.
I want to start a chorus of voices shouting: I am not defined by depression! I suffer from depression sometimes, but I am defined by my love for art, writing, books, music, travel, being active, being silly, and looking on the bright side. 🙂 What are you defined by?