In the United States, it is still taboo to talk about mental illnesses. This is shocking since roughly 1 in 5 adults experience some kind of mental illness during their lifetime and that mental illnesses are the leading cause of disabilities across the country. The taboo nature of openly discussing mental illnesses has created many stigmas.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a “stigma is when someone, even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition.” These stigmas can confuse the feeling of feeling bad with being bad. Stigmas have negative effects on the lives of people living with mental illnesses.
Stigmas can cause people living with a mental illness to feel like they are alone which leads to isolation. When a person with a mental illness feels isolated, the person may choose not to seek treatment. While some people are able to live healthy lives while not seeking treatment, the lack of treatment can allow symptoms to worsen and could eventually lead to a suicide attempt. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth ages 15-24 and the tenth leading cause of death for all Americans. While there isn’t a cure for mental illnesses, there are treatments that help people living with a mental illness live a healthy life.
To help prevent others from feeling isolated due to their mental illness, try to use respectful language to talk about mental health conditions. Instead of saying things like “the weather is so bipolar” or “she just went psycho on me,” say “the weather has been so unpredictable” and “she got upset with me and yelled at me.” This respectful language will help people living with mental illnesses to not associate their disorders with being bad and defective.
Another thing that can be done to help reduce the stigmas related mental illnesses is to openly talk about what you are experiencing. When I first started experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder I was afraid to tell anyone or talk about it because I didn’t want anyone to know that there was something “wrong” with me. This caused me to isolate myself from people and believe that I was defective. It took a long time for me to realize that there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with me and took even longer for me to feel comfortable talking about my diagnosis. Once I started to open up about my diagnosis I realized that there wasn’t anything I needed to feel bad about. My bipolar disorder is due to a chemical imbalance in my body and not some fundamental mistake in who I am.
I encourage you to share your personal experiences and change the way you talk about mental illnesses for the better. Once I started to open up about my diagnosis, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and hope that you will feel the same weight lift!