"Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog" — that’s the name of this blog full of tips and advice to get through moments of stigma, overcome it, and so on. Often, that’s how I approach writing for this blog: what tips can I share? What have I gone through that might be useful to others? But then it struck me. Dealing with mental health stigma can quite literally be an act of survival. It’s not hyperbole. It’s not dramatics. Mental health stigma could literally lead to someone dying. I’ll elaborate. (Note: this post contains a content warning.)
Depression and Stigma
As open as I am about my depression, I'm not completely open about it. I'll talk about having depression and how dark it can get, which is done both in an effort of catharsis and to show others who may be going through the same thing that they're not as alone as depression can make us feel. It's also an important part of taking on mental health stigma, which is something I strive for whenever I can. Ironically, mental health stigma can be a part of what keeps me from being completely open about my depression.
My name is Rachel Miles, and I am very excited to be joining HealthyPlace to write on Surviving Mental Health Stigma. I was first diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder when I was 16 years old. This resulted in my first hospitalization as well as my first experiences with therapy, medication, and confronting mental health stigma. At the time, I had no idea what a significant part of my life these things would become.
People’s notions of what someone with a mental illness looks like includes ideas of how they think a person with mental illness should behave. The idea that you can tell someone with a mental illness by looking at them comes from both misunderstanding and stigma. But, as more and more people discuss realities like high-functioning mental illness and so forth, people are beginning to broaden their understanding. However, we need to delve deeper into the idea that someone can look like they have a mental illness. The fact is, mental illness looks different in everyone, and I don’t mean simply from one illness to another, but within the same illness.
Self-care isn’t a foreign topic when it comes to mental illness. Not only can self-care improve your overall mental wellness, but it’s more often than not a topic of conversation because of how incredibly difficult it can be to take care of ourselves when we’re struggling. The simple act of getting out of bed or having a proper meal can seem like a mountain to climb. One of the more interesting aspects of self-care, I think, is the self-stigma that’s attached to it; the self-stigma that says maybe we should stop focusing on ourselves for once.
Depression and men experiencing mental illness stigma is a common and problematic concern for many people, and it also happens on many levels when living with any mental illness for that matter; however, this article focuses on men experiencing depression and mental illness stigma. I am not referring to feeling down once in a while due to the stressors of everyday life, but actually focusing on men who feel so low that depression is negatively affecting their lives on a daily basis and causing them great concern for their mental health.
On Oct. 28, 2013, Justin Eldridge took his life. He left behind a wife and four children, and the never-ending question of "Why?" He had served more than eight years serving in the United States Marines, including an eight-month stint in Afghanistan. He was 31-years-old.
Do you ever feel as if you're not good enough? Do you ever wake up at night and think, If others really knew me... Do you ever walk around looking at others, knowing they are better/smarter/more beautiful than you? Yes.
I thought I was done with writing about eating disorders. I developed and started writing HealthyPlace's Surviving ED blog in 2010. Readers saw me through several relapses, struggles and many tears, and the everyday ups and downs of recovering from an eating disorder. In December 2012, I wrote a highly optimistic good-bye post, declaring that I had found my dream job and wishing everyone well. I was done, done with anorexia and writing about it. I was moving on, to a bright and endless future. First I found out the job wasn't such a dream after all. Today I found out I am overweight and need to lose some pounds, putting me on par with the majority of Americans. I can't believe it.
Since I started writing this blog over a year ago, I’ve noticed that I get more and more questions regarding my plans on how to end mental health stigma in my life (What Is Stigma?). Of course, I am honored to receive these questions, but I do not by any means consider myself an expert on the matter. But, here it goes anyway. You can be the judge as to whether I am an expert or not.