Over the past decade, we’ve made a lot of changes in how society views people with mental illness, but there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health conditions.
But if you have a mental health condition or think you may have one, don’t feel ashamed.
According to John Hopkins University, in any given year, 26% of adults 18 and older – just over one in four – will show symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness. Mental illness is becoming more commonly diagnosed in adults of all ages, so it’s especially important that we stop judging people with mental health conditions for being “different.”
So what if your neighbor takes medication for depression or anxiety? We can’t help the type of brain chemistry we end up with, and medication can help us find the right balance of the chemicals our brain needs. Maybe your longtime best friend just learned that they have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Does that mean that you should treat them any differently than you always have? You’ve known your friend for your whole life and should be happy that they’re finding out why they feel the way that they do.
I will admit that mental illness can be complicated and scary for those with mental health conditions and their families and friends. But it’s important to support your friends with mental illness through the hard times and remember how difficult this is for them. If your friend needs therapy for those symptoms that scare them or they just finished a hospitalization for a suicide attempt, don’t leave them because you’re afraid. Be proud that your friend is making healthy choices.
It’s time that we listen to people with mental illness.
A lot of times, patients have a hard time expressing what’s going on in their heads at any given moment. Part of that comes from the mental health stigma. It’s hard to explain yourself when you often hear people adding their unprofessional opinions or judging you for the things that you struggle with. We don’t need second or third opinions from friends or strangers telling us what we already think: that we’re “freaks” and there’s something clinically “wrong” with us.
We need to respect that people with mental illness have both good days and bad days just like anyone else.
Sometimes they need to go into treatment to get their illnesses under control so that they can manage life, and we shouldn’t hold it against them. We also need to understand that most people with mental illness aren’t looking to cause trouble. If you’re struggling with your mental health but choose to be present and live life, I support you. And if you’re struggling but are taking the steps you need in order to heal, I’m proud of you too.
If you have a mental health condition, you may feel like it’s hard for others to understand what you’re going through. Just know that there are so many of us in your corner, and we’ll be beside you every step of the way.