• Carrie

Overcoming the Stigma

Mental illness has been stigmatized for a long time. Historically, mental health has been linked with spiritual well being. In the past if someone were going mad, or having hysterical episodes, people assumed they were spiritually corrupt. Therefore, those that did not suffer from mental afflictions were closer to God. It must have been absolutely terrible to live in such an ignorant society, even if that was all they knew at the time. As recent as the thirties, forties and fifties people with mental illness were subjected to barbaric treatments such as electric shock treatment, hydro therapy, and even lobotomy. Literally shoving an ice pick through the thin layer above the eye into the prefrontal cortex of the brain was considered a good idea for mental illness treatment. Thank God those treatments have been cast out as inhumane and cruel.

In short, those that suffer from mental illness have been cast out of society, told they were less than, treated worse than animals, abused and some left permanently disabled. I think today we should be grateful at the new embrace of making mental illness a topic of discussion. There is still a long way to go, of course, but people are not being held for decades in terrible conditions and ultimately left to suffer and die. I think it is important to advocate for mental health/illness. So many people still suffer and believe they are alone when they don't have to be. It's tragic.

People assume that mental illness has one face. That being bipolar means one thing and inhabits one type of person. Sometimes depression is seen as a myth or something somebody can just "get over". This misconception is dangerous and uneducated. Mental illness is a disease of the brain. Chemicals in the brain do not balance and neurons do not trigger the same way as other people. This can be caused by biology and genes, or sometimes environmental stress.

Just because you need medication in order to not feel like killing yourself, to stop manic behaviors that can literally ruin your life, or to control the voices in your head, does not make you any less of a person. People criticize those on several psychiatric medications before considering why they take them and what their lives are like without them. The point here is to never be ashamed of how you feel or the struggles you face. There is a very good chance that someone on this planet has felt the same and sharing your story can create a support group you never thought you had. Mental illness may always be stigmatized, practices may become outdated, but awareness is important and so is empathy.

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