According to NAMI, one in four adults are living with a mental illness. There are several different categories of mental illnesses, some being: schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, and psychotic disorders. These illnesses have been around for hundreds of years, even before anyone knew what mental illnesses were. Historically, if someone showed symptoms of a mental illness, they were thought to be possessed, or practicing witchcraft. Now we have many medical conditions such as cancer, strokes, heart conditions, & many more. Illnesses like these are not considered to define who the person is. You would never tell a person with a serious medical condition that “it is all in their head” or to “snap out of it”. Then why is it that these things are said to people with serious mental illnesses? Why do we have this belief that mental illnesses define who a person is, and then completely avoid the person? Why do people who have been recently diagnosed or showing symptoms of an illness, feel ashamed, or embarrassed about their illness, and often keep quiet instead of seeking the help they need? Why do we keep quiet instead of talking about mental illnesses, and educate people about them? We would never think that of a physically ill person. It is simply because of the stigma that is attached to mental illnesses. Nobody wants to be considered “crazy” or “insane”. Even families, who should be seeking help for their loved one, keep quiet to avoid the stigma. Unlike physically ill people, who usually don’t think twice about receiving treatment, mentally ill people often don’t get the treatment they need.
Why don’t we view psychiatric treatment, and psychotherapy the same way we view treatment from a physician or a specialized doctor? I know how stigma effects those with mental illnesses from my personally struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Depression. I was told to “snap out of it” and that it’s “all in my head”, when I knew I couldn’t. I knew I needed professional help, which I sought, but not without feeling like that stigma was attached to me. I have learned a lot since then, and my anxiety and depression have improved with that treatment. I know that my anxiety and depression do not define me. And because I sought treatment, I am able to go to school, and enjoy my life like everyone else. I hope to further educate people about mental illnesses, and change the face of how they are viewed. If everyone knew this, maybe no one with a mental illness would have to even think about receiving treatment. I hope our society becomes educated about mental illnesses, and stops putting stigmas on them.
If you or someone you know are showing symptoms of a mental illness or have been easily diagnosed, remember this:
1. You have and illness: you are not “crazy” or whatever people choose to all it.
2. Seek professional help: like I said, you have an illness, it is not going to go away on its own.
3. You are not alone: know that there are people who are willing to help you get better.
4. Never feel ashamed: it takes a strong person to ask for help, there is no shame in that, you should be proud of yourself.
5. Your illness does not define you: you are a unique human being who has the ability to succeed in life, don’t feel like your illness sets limits for you.
Author: Nicole Perez is a psychology student at the University of Central Florida. She has always had a passion for psychology and helping people overcome the challenges in their loves. She especially has a passion for working with children and families. She plans on continuing on to receive her PhD in clinical psychology specializing in children and their development.