Friday, 6 July 2012

Mental Illness Stigma

Something we all know about, are mental illnesses. However, how often do you find yourself discussing it with a friend or openly talking about it? Although I have known it's a bit of a taboo subject, it has recently occurred to me that the stigma attached the mental illness, is actually huge - but why?
Chances are we all know someone with a mental illness, and we may not even know about it . Whether it's depression, OCD, schizophrenia, an eating disorder etc. Unlike a physical illness, they can't be seen and unless someone tells you they are suffering, you'll probably never know. And most of the time, we probably never will know because we automatically prejudge the person as soon as they have revealed something that is extremely personal. We assume they are mad or deluded just because they have a chemical imbalance or were genetically predisposed to developing irrational cognitions. But, 5 seconds after you've been told, that person hasn't changed. They are still the same person! 
My Dad has OCD and has suffered for over 10 years. He keeps it very secret because he's so embarrassed about his illness and fears people will treat him differently. He is actually one of the most amazing people I know. If you look at him, you don't know he's ill. He still functions, he works (despite being told he wouldn't be able to again) and he goes to football games - his favourite pastime. So, if he can do this, isn't he actually a much stronger person than a 'healthy' human being. He lives his life AND deals will a mental illness. For that, I have so much respect and find him extremely inspirational. 
It really frustrates me that society has such a negative view when it comes to mental illness. We don't criticise a cancer patient, so why is depression so different? Sufferers aren't mad. They aren't crazy. They are probably some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. If we spoke about it more, we'd realise that and more and more people would seek help and treatment, allowing them to live better lives.
So, what I suppose I'm trying to say is, let's try not to judge people based on whether they have a mental illness. You might even be sitting here reading this, with a mental illness that nobody knows about. Please don't suffer in silence (even email me if you want!). It can very be scary.. but it doesn't have to be :)

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