Saturday, September 8, 2012
Stigma is alive and well
Stigma says: People who have mental illness are just lazy and don't want to work so use it as an excuse.
Fact says: People who suffer from a mental illness are often lacking the energy needed to perform simple daily activities needed to survive. Just getting out of bed in the morning is a task.
Stigma says: People who are mentally ill choose their lives and if they wanted to change then they would do so. They should just pull up their socks and get over the pity party.
Fact says: Mental Illness is a REAL disorder of the brain. They do not choose to be ill just like people who have cancer- it just happens. They are not to blame
Stigma says: If they were to just take their medication to control their mental disorder then they would be fine.
Fact says: It takes often months or years to find the right medication that works. Sometimes the side effects are worse then the disorder itself. Medication is helpful however it is not the only thing that needs to be done. At times, it takes years to get to the point where they are able to cope with life to be able to live on their own. This is after many medication changes, doctor visits, psychiatrist visits, therapist visits, crisis team interventions, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, groups, programs...
Stigma says: People with mental illness do not need sympathy but need the tough love approach. People who have mental illness will not die from their disorder but people with cancer most likely will.
Fact says: People who suffer from any illness require empathy, care, and understanding. Tough love often will push the loved one away. A person who is diagnosed with a mental illness is more likely to die by their own hands and complete suicide.
I am not sure why there is still stigma around surrounding mental illness. If someone has cancer and is away from work, cannot look after their family, or is in the hospital then often times friends and neighbours will come over with a nice cooked meal to help out or they will visit the person who is ill. However, if someone has a mental illness then very often this person is isolated and made to feel alone. People are less likely to visit them when they are home ill or in the hospital. They are less likely to ask if they can help with something. The person who is ill is made to feel as if what they are experiencing is their fault and they need to fix themselves.
If people had the power to heal themselves from mental illness then why are they still sick? Why are they still suffering? Anyone who is ill does not choose to be ill because they want to- but because they do not have a choice. I am sure that most people who are ill with any disease would choose health over anything else.
Mental Illness takes away a lot of things. Sometimes cancer looks more appealing then mental illness. With cancer at least you know you are going to often have your friends and family to support you and help you when needed. You appear ill and people give empathy and caring to you, being sensitive to your needs and respect you. They make time for you as they may feel you will not be around forever due to how sick you are getting. I am not saying that cancer is a good thing by any means, however is mental illness a good thing either?
With mental illness, chances are the diagnosis is life long. During your life time you lose more friends then you can count. The possibility of having a long term relationship is a dream for most, along with a family of their own. There will be a strained relationship with your family if they do not understand what is going on- and have to face stigma day in and out while they sweep reality under the mat. When ill and in the hospital, you are placed in a locked ward where your privacy and privileges are taken away. But who needs privileges when most people will not visit you anyways as they are ashamed of you for being "weak".
Cancer can be a death sentence but also mental illness can be too. If someone who is in the waves of despair and becomes engulfed then often it feels as if they are going to die. Sometimes, they would rather die then have this long term life sentence. Who would want to live if your family and friends do not support you and they step aside? To feel alone all the time? Where people tell you to take a pill and you will be fine but fail to validate that you try so hard in staying well? To be told that you are lazy and a drain on the system? To have no one to believe in you? If this is what living is like then no wonder there are people who do not want to continue on if they face a brick wall daily.... a brick wall of stigma.
Cancer is not pretty but neither is the reality of mental illness. A person is just as much a hero who has a mental illness as if someone survives cancer. Only difference is how society views it. Lets start changing the views of society.
Please go to Partners for Mental Health to see what volunteer opportunities you can assist in and remember to sign the pledge while you are there! I volunteer as a Community Correspondent for Nova Scotia and I find it very empowering to be apart of Partners and align with people who are working towards a common goal- reducing stigma in our communities! Lets start speaking out about mental illness and normalizing it! Be the change you want to see- you CAN make a difference.