Stigma is defined as a set of negative or often unfair beliefs that a society, group, or individual has about a group, or person.
The month of May is mental health awareness month. The color or ribbon is green. The first week of October is mental health awareness week.
Millions of people in the United States battle mental illness. Mental illness is always hard for people to understand because it is an invisible disability. You can not see a mind or brain that is unhealthy. It is hard to see anxiety, depression, irritability, suicidal thoughts, etc. These can be easily missed or misunderstood unless they are expressed by the person struggling with them. The battles individuals with mental illness face are real. There is no cure for mental illness.
The severity level or how much it disables the person varies from person to person. There are people who just seek therapy, or meditate to stay grounded or centered to manage stress. Others like myself need treatment, medication, and struggle to manage the stresses that come with everyday life. This does not mean we are weak, or inadequate in any way. It does mean our mental health disability impacts our daily lives.
Some of the most brilliant minds we know today battled mental illness. Robin Williams was one of the greatest actors of all time. He was one of the most iconic comedy stars. He battled depression and ultimately ended up taking his life.
Jennifer Lewis is an African American female actress. She has played many roles on television and in some of the most iconic movies like “The Temptations”.
Jennifer Lewis has shed light on the fact that she has battled bipolar disorder for most of her life. The most challenging part for her was that for many years she received no treatment. She did not know what she was battling. Later on, she realized through seeking help that it was bipolar disorder.
Many people believe that mental illness is something you pray away, but this is untrue and a form of stigma. Also, some believe that we are being possessed by a spirit, and if that spirit is under control we would be cured. These are all myths.
Individuals with mental illness are extremely gifted. We are often very artsy, or witty. We do well working in a trade field or working with our hands. Some of the issues we face as adults are because we are often misunderstood. We often realize and recognize more than people think we do.
Some people target individuals with mental illness and we can be manipulated, taken advantage of, or abused. This is not a reflection of our lack of awareness, but more of the craftiness of the person’s tactics to use and abuse.
Mental illness should not bring shame to those who battle it every day. More awareness is needed. Many people who haven’t been impacted by it do not understand individuals who battle mental illness. A lot of people suffer in silence to avoid stigma.
Also, many people decline proper treatment and live very challenging lives. For the small percentage of us that embrace, and strive not to suffer in silence, it is a rocky road to live.
Mental health awareness matters. If you are someone battling mental illness do not suffer in silence. Though it may seem impossible, reach out and get the help you need.
I have been on this journey for eighteen years. I know more than anything that it is my connection to God that makes a big difference. It helps the battles that we face as individuals with mental illness. All things are possible with God no matter what we face (Matthew 19:26).
Feel free to check out my book about the struggles I have faced battling mental illness.
The Dealt Hand: The Story of My Battle with Mental Illness
Mental Health Organizations
National Alliance on Mental Illness (http://nami.org) There are local affiliates across the US and surrounding counties where you live.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (https://www.samhsa.gov/)
Suicide Hotline: You can dial #988 and that will direct you to the suicide hotline from any mobile phone.