Cure Stigma: Sharing to Ignite More Awareness.
HANDS UP if you or someone you know has NEVER had or been affected by mental illness? I asked this question recently to a room of 12 people and later to a room of 50 people, both times the response was the same.
Nobody put up their hand.
We all have mental health as it is the state of our wellness or illness which fluctuates or changes.
Mental illness can affect anyone, at any age, at any time, yet STIGMA is a chronic disease of Western society, spread by our obsessive need to label and separate for our own peace of mind.
When confronted by something we don’t understand, our human tendency is to put “it in a box,” and turn our backs away so that it doesn’t affect our world. Seemingly, compartmentalizing mental illness and putting people in a box, is somehow reassuring. I have to admit that earlier in my life, I also acted out of fear of the unknown, and I have been drawn into the accepted norms surrounding mental health. Back then, I didn’t know any better, but now I do.
I have been on the receiving end of the stigma of mental illness, openly and covertly, in both my private life and my workplace. I have personally experienced and have witnessed being done towards others, a sudden change of behaviour and attitude when someone’s mental illness history comes to light. From the moment the word is out, things change, and not for the better.
It’s as though a filter has been put in place, through which the same eyes and ears that once accepted and respected our individuality, now scrutinize and judge us from a different perspective.
Everything we do is seen differently and we are watched more closely for anything we do or say that appears ‘strange.’ Socially, we are silently ridiculed for our light-hearted comments or playful behaviour, which is often laughed off or encouraged if done by others that are not labeled by stigma.
Does society really think that we don’t see their sly rolling eyes or know about the labels we’ve been branded with? We become the target for untruths that flourish aboard the gossip train.
Is it any wonder that we say everything is okay, even when it’s not (especially when it’s not), we then learn to become good actors? We hide how we really feel, but in the debilitating pretense, behind our smile or light comments, we are finding the strength to hold it all in. And behind closed doors, we break down and we cry.
Stigma feeds on a lack of understanding and misinterpretation.
Is there a cure for mental health stigma? I believe so. The healing lies in a global change of attitude towards something we all live with but have been too scared to talk about.
The cure of stigma starts right here and right now, with me and you. We begin by making a decision to change and be there for each other. To ask and to listen. To REALLY listen. To encourage conversation and to make time for open and honest communication about how we feel.
We can cure stigma by sharing our truths to ignite more awareness.
Do you know of another way that we can begin to cure stigma? Do you have a personal experience with being placed ‘in a box?’ Please share your ideas and experiences with us in the comments section below. You just may save someone’s life!
Are you ready to live outside the box? I invite you to grab a copy of my free e-book, Breaking Free as a gift for you.