In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week last week, I wanted to touch on the important topic surrounding the stigma of mental health.
Mental health is often misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout all ages. A common definition of mental health is the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional wellbeing of oneself—it is all about how we think, feel, and behave.
When people hear someone else talking about mental health, their immediate thought is that something must be wrong with them, they’re crazy, or that they are always depressed and sad. All of these insinuations are incorrect.
There are people who struggle with depression, but saying all who struggle with mental illness have depression is ignorant. There are many different kinds of physical sicknesses, but as a society, we would not group together people diagnosed with asthma with people diagnosed with a broken rib.
In the same way, we should not group together every mental illness. Every mental illness is to be treated and cared for differently, and they are all just as important as the other.
Mental health has been seen as stigmatized since the beginning of time. While the treatment of mental health has gotten better over the years, it still not near where it needs to be.
One of the first real glimpses that I personally got into the mental health stigma previously, was through a book I read in my Literature class, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
This novel was placed in the 1950s when mental health was not understood, and was just often looked at as a person being insane. The characters were often beaten, taken advantage of, and treated as though they were children. Some characters in the story were in a mental institution, but not even mentally ill.
They were just characterized by their peers as not “fitting in” or “strange and weird”. Thankfully, we now do not have mental asylums, and more and more research are being done on mental health.
The effects that the stigma of mental health has had on people struggling from mental illness can be significant and long lasting.
Mental illness is a very complicated and hard thing to understand when you have never personally experienced it, or known someone who has experienced it.
This stigma also leads to many who are suffering from mental illness to feel uncomfortable and unsafe talking about it for fear of being harassed, bullied, or being looked at differently.
They are concerned about being treated differently than they would be if people did not know they had a mental illness.
Mental illness is very common among Americans, almost one in four having one.
All who are in this fight, know that you are not alone. Going to a therapist when you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling should be as common as going to the doctor when you are sick.
Even if you have not had an experience with mental illness, be sure to educate yourself and others you may know to help reduce the stigma around it.
Respect and stand up for others when they are misunderstood about their illness, and help others to understand what they are going through. There are many resources available to you, and many who care for you.
Specific resources on campus are available to all including the Counseling Center and Medical Clinic in Health Services.
Header photo courtesy of Flickr.