Mental Illness: It’s Time to Stop the Stigma

When I resigned from my job as a staff nurse, I didn’t really know what career I wanted to cross over to. You know, the “I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this” phase. I was ready for a career change, but didn’t really have a specific new career in mind to begin with.

Then introspection and a lot of self-evaluation led me to discover that what I really want is to go into the field of psychology. It’s interesting, it involves a lot of things I like doing, it doesn’t involve much of the things I hate doing, and it tries to answer most of the questions I bother myself with everyday. So psychology it will be, I decided.

 

But it wasn’t until I listened to Elyn Saks talk about her personal experience as a person with schizophrenia that I truly realized how much I care, how much I want to understand, how much I want to help. After listening to that talk, I just couldn’t help but cry. And it wasn’t even a gentle, sympathetic kind of tear-shedding, but an uncontrollable, soul-hurt kind of cry that left me gasping for breath.

I don’t really know why this issue affects me so much, but it does. The stigma society places on mental disorders is unbelievably unfair and amazingly cruel. The common perception is that people who are mentally ill are the way they are because they have allowed themselves to be too weak, that somehow they chose to be that way, and it’s definitely their fault they can’t discipline themselves to be positive and resilient enough to deal with life and its hardships.

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Mental disorders are seen and treated by society so differently from physical illnesses. While the latter often solicits sympathy, care, and more love, the former is greeted with haughtiness and an impatient “Can’t you just perk up?” treatment. “Snap out of that cancer,” said no one ever.

...

 

Mentally ill people are fighting a different kind of battle that sadly, only a handful bother to understand and empathize with. When will we begin to see and treat mental illness like the way we see and treat physical diseases? We hear of a cancer diagnosis, and our support flows in. We hear of a schizophrenia diagnosis, and we flee for our lives. Why?

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I guess a part of the reason for this, is that the suffering endured by the mentally ill is a suffering we cannot really see and prove for ourselves. Unlike the readily visible wounds and physical abnormalities in physical disease, the wounds and abnormalities a mentally ill person suffers from are wholly inside the mind. Is cancer the worst of diseases? I say not.

...chained inside-out.

…chained inside-out.

The severely mentally ill, these are the people suffering from the worst of lives. Trapped in their own heads, unable to get freed, powerless. Dangerous to themselves and to others without meaning to be so, without even being aware of it…or even when they are aware of it, they cannot counter it.

They are among the most difficult to treat and manage, but they are the ones who most need the care and the management.

 

To all psychologists, psychiatrists, and would-be professionals of mental health…

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There’s work to be done.

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7 thoughts on “Mental Illness: It’s Time to Stop the Stigma

  1. Great post! I admire the fact that even though you don’t suffer from mental illness, you get it. You truly understand what kind of stigma those of us with mental illness are dealing with. Thank you for that! I actually just published a book about a person suffering from mental illness in the hopes that it would inform and educate and let those who suffer know that they aren’t alone. I blog about this stuff too. Stop by for a visit. Thanks!

    • Hi Victoria! I dropped by your blog and I think it’s fascinating too! I’ve followed it as well; thank you for giving us an insider’s look into your personal experiences. Both mental health professionals and the general public alike can gain valuable insights from what you write. 🙂

  2. Pingback: For the Square Pegs in the Round Holes | InkBlots and IceBergs

  3. Hi Victoria! As I perused for something meaningful or inspiring to read today, I came across your blog. I began reading about your “Two Relationships” identifying with so much. But…it was this post on
    “Time to Stop the Stigma” that grabbed my attention enough to comment. My daughter had a complete mental break at the age of 40. She didn’t know who she was and after healing for 5 years it happened again last year. The most heartbreaking thing during this time was not that she didn’t recognize me for a few hours while in emergency but that her children had no way to understand it –

    It took over a year for her mind to heal and during that time there were threats of suicide for the embarrassment she felt and the shame not to mention the guilt when she finally became aware of what she did while in another state.

    Needless to say, I am right with you that it is time to stop the Stigma!

    I feel the need to write about the stigma and once I get past the emotional baggage from it being so fresh in my mind, I may be able to do so.

    Thank you so much for your post!

    • Hi! Thank you for taking the time to read, and to share your own insights on this. I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience. I don’t have any personal experience dealing with the mental illness of a loved one, but such sentiments awaken my compassion and make me want to do something about stopping the stigma. I am looking forward to the time when you too can write about this issue and spread this advocacy. No pressure though; take your time healing and dealing with the emotional baggage you feel you carry, until the time you feel ready to write about it. The fact that you had personally witnessed how those with mental conditions can suffer from embarrassment and shame puts you in a position to be a powerful speaker against the conditions that perpetuate such stigma.

      I wish you and your daughter well. 🙂

      P.S. Victoria is the other blogger’s name; my name’s Carla. 🙂

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