Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Stigma is Real

Tonight, while trying to defend another mother, I was told to "take my mental health issues somewhere else." This person knew about my personal struggles because I had used them as an example in a comment trying to give the mom I was defending some advice.

Here's the thing. People who think mental health struggles can be slung at others as an insult are the same people who contribute to the stigma that so desperately needs to be broken. I guarantee that had I been talking about a physical disease, this person would not have said a word about it, because in their minds I wouldn't have anything to be ashamed of.

I don't write this for pity or because my feelings were hurt - they weren't. I write because this person was a harsh reminder of the fact that there are plenty of people who see mental health as something to be ashamed of instead of a disease that should be as normal to talk about as any physical ailment. This is why we have awareness days. This is why so many have gotten semicolon tattoos. This is why mental health should be discussed daily.

Along with this blog, I run a Bipolar Disorder Support Group on Facebook and am always amazed at how many people feel like they are alone and come to the group because they are seeking others like them. I see numerous people a day state in the entry questions that they want to join the group because no one understands or because they feel like there isn't anyone else out there "like them."

If only they knew.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one major depressive episode. 35% of those people did not receive any medical treatment. (2017) On the CDC website, it states that suicide has been the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the US since 2008. In 2016 it became the second leading cause of death in ages 10-34 and the fourth in ages 35-54.

Did you read that? I'll say it again - suicide is the second leading cause of death for people as young as TEN years old.

Something HAS to change. People with mental health issues need to know that they aren't alone. And that won't happen until we start talking about it openly. Yes, there will always be people like the one I ran into tonight, but that shouldn't stop us. It should motivate us. We have the power to start a conversation, and the more people we get to talk about mental health openly and comfortably, the more people will realize that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that they aren't alone.

Because that's what matters - making sure that people know they shouldn't be ashamed and even more importantly, they aren't alone. Let's create a world where people like the one I ran into tonight are far and in between  It will save lives.

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