“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”-Bill Clinton
Not many illnesses rob you of your health and well being at the same time as destroying your reputation or damaging your relationships. Once you receive a mental health diagnosis, you are permanently changed. What a conundrum: to refuse to seek help and stay in a living hell in the present in order to protect your future or get the help you so desperately need and risk the future ramifications of the label that they give you? It really can’t be that bad, you say. Well, think again. Ask a vet who returns with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ask someone who is single how they approach dating with a diagnosis. Ask an employer what the unstated company policy is on hiring people with mental illnesses. Ask yourself how many of your friends would rewrite their histories with you in order to have ‘seen it coming’. Until we as a society accept that mental illness is a part of life for 1 in 6 Americans and that treatment is not something of shame, but a necessary and brave step to take, we will continue to deal with the consequences. Lives languishing. Potential wasted. Estrangement and silence magnified. Unnecessary violence- both that perpetrated on the mentally ill (which is far more common) and as a result of non-treatment. The knowledge and responsibility of knowing in our hearts that we could have done better.
As you look at the resources listed below, ask yourself the following questions: What beliefs do I have that I should reconsider? How often do I use words like “crazy,” “nutter,” and “psycho” as an insult? How does that impact someone’s decision to seek treatment or talk to you if they are having a problem? How can I do better?
Here is a documentary produced by Washtenaw County’s Community Support and Treatment Center called “Believe in Me.” It is very well done and provides insight in what people with mental illness go through almost on a daily basis.
This is a documentary narrated by Glenn Close called “A New State of Mind.” You can find out more about the documentary and about fighting mental health stigma from their webpage: www.eachmindmatters.org
Here is a commercial for the Bring Change 2 Mind website which features Glenn Close and her sister, Jessie.