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Surviving Mental Health Stigma

It’s one thing to say that the opinions of others don’t matter, but actually believing these words to be true is another beast entirely. Growing up, people had a bad habit of telling me who I was, what I offered, and even who I was going to be. Sometimes I would brush these comments off, but I would mostly let them sit and fester until the line between what I believed and what others believed of me blurred. I was susceptible to the thoughts and expectations of others because I lost touch with my sense of self. Our sense of self is like a river flowing through every ocean of our life. It’s the birthplace of thoughts, actions, and patterns. What we think of ourselves drives how we live our lives. When that sense of self is rattled and easily shaken, we leave the door open for the unfounded opinions of others to walk right in and sit on the metaphorical couch that is our mind. When our sense of self is stable and fortified, well, the door is just that, locked and bolted.
The truth is out. I'm a mental health blogger who is not entirely comfortable talking about my mental health journey. Yes, I divulge details of one of the most painful and personal experiences in my life on the Internet that anyone can see with the click of a mouse or a tap of a finger, but every time I hit "publish," I get a little rush of fear. I fear that my colleagues will read my articles and think I'm a less competent worker. I fear that the guy I'm interested in will read about my experiences before I feel it's time to sit down and tell him directly. The funny thing about my fear is that it's not manufactured solely by myself; it's a byproduct of societal influence.
"Get over it." "Snap out of it." If I had a dime for every time I heard those phrases about depression, let's just say I could quit my day job. It irritates, no infuriates, me that the sheer magnitude and hardship that is depression is diminished. It makes a challenging experience all the more compounding. It is hard to say if it's ignorance that drives this misconception or stigma or if the two are even mutually exclusive; one thing for sure is that none of it is helpful to an individual struggling.
Seven years: that’s how long I’ve been writing for HealthyPlace and the "Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog." This time seven years ago, I was embarking on a new journey in writing and mental health. And now, again, I’m embarking on a new journey and saying goodbye to this blog.
Take a moment to think of your favorite media villain. I bet the character that just came to mind is portrayed as having a mental illness with a sprinkle, or more like a heap of dramatization for theatrical effect. Batman's Two-Face struggles deeply from poorly represented dissociative identity disorder (DID), as does Split's protagonist with the 23rd identity of Kevin being The Beast, an entirely fictitious representation that--intentionally or not--paints individuals suffering from DID as violent and inhuman. The cinematic tactic aimed at creating drama and bolstering a storyline comes with an unintended and paramount side effect: stigma.
Energy can be low or nonexistent when you have mental health struggles. For me, I generally have less energy to begin with, and, often, day-to-day activities—even simple interactions or tasks—can drain my battery to red. When my depression and anxiety are running rampant, it can feel like every gauge goes into the negative.
On July 16th, 2022, the new three-digit Suicide and Mental Health Crisis Hotline went into full effect. The transition from a 10-digit number to the more convenient and memorable 988 is a positive step toward adequate and widely-accessible mental health resources for all. Moreover, the hotline is no longer solely for suicidal individuals but open to anyone facing a mental health crisis. The overall messaging behind this change is perhaps the most impactful. We hear you; we see you; we'll show you not only through our words but through our actions.
I'll admit, it's difficult sometimes to separate a discussion of mental health from a discussion of race. It's difficult to separate a discussion of anything from a discussion of race, for that matter. During my mental health journey, while adapting to the nuances of navigating my illness, it was not lost on me that race itself was another nuance to navigate. This is just one example of a very long list of factors that felt completely out of my control. Although difficult to accept, realizing that I couldn't fix everything opened me up to more healing and more peace throughout my mental health journey. I realized I didn't have to feel guilty for compartmentalizing race and my mental health. This can be applied to any factor that may feel out of your control and cause added strain on your pursuit of mental wellness. It's okay to let go and prioritize yourself.
The basis of marketing is pretty simple: identify a problem your target customer is facing and offer a solution. In most cases, it’s effective, but, unfortunately, it’s also used in predatory marketing practices that don’t necessarily a sound product or opportunity to offer. It’s important to be able to recognize mental health stigma used in marketing tactics in order to protect yourself from falling prey to them.
This July marks the 14th anniversary of the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month, also known as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Mental Health Month (BIPOC MHM). In a world that seemingly revolves around race, it's nearly impossible to ignore the stark disparities deeply rooted in minority and historically oppressed communities regarding mental health accessibility and stigma.