Mental health: The stigma needs to end
The problem with your mental health is that it’s all in your head! Chances are if you are suffering from a mental health issue, the majority of people you come into contact with will have no idea. It is entirely your choice if you tell them or not.
A lot of people in this position feel that they cannot speak up because they either feel ashamed or that others simply will not understand them. Unfortunately, most of the time, they have every right to feel like this because chances are they’re right. They will feel ashamed because other people will make them feel ashamed and they will feel misunderstood because, once again other people just will not understand what they are going through. Why? Because of the stigma of mental health.
If I break my leg and I am struggling to get onto a bus, I can expect a great deal of sympathy from most people. I don’t have to explain myself because people can obviously see what has happened. They can easily imagine the pain or suffering that I have experienced and empathise with the sheer difficulty of having to deal with the situation. They just get it; for me, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Now, take the same example but replace a broken leg with severe anxiety. It then becomes a completely different story. It is so difficult for me to try to explain that I am struggling to get on that same bus because of the thoughts in my head, there is nothing physically stopping me, but I am terrified and I cannot do it. How is the average person, who has never experienced something like that going to be able to understand?
Not being able to do something so simple as getting onto a bus? They may respond with pity, embarrassment or even amusement but most likely they will see me as “not normal”, a bit weird and that is tough. When you are on the receiving end of that, believe me, you can’t help but feel ashamed and more often than not judged. No amount of explaining can get you out of it. It’s just how it is.
It can be so difficult and it’s not just getting on the bus, it’s at work, it’s being out in shops or in social situations. It is no wonder some people will try to hide their mental health issues. And again believe me as it’s unseen to others; it’s easy to make out that it just isn’t there. And this can lead to real problems and is why these conditions can last for such a long time, far longer than they should in many cases (This ‘hiding away’ is certainly not something you could do with a broken leg).
It is also why it takes so much courage for people to actually admit that they have a problem and then ask for help. It’s Because of that stigma, because of the fear of being shamed and not understood, that many thousands of people are, as we speak suffering, often in silence and often alone.
The stigma needs to end. We all need to learn more about mental health both our own and that of other people and start to see just how debilitating mental health issues can be. They are not someone else’s problems; they are all of our problems. There is no hiding from it, and pretending it is not there doesn’t help anyone, in fact, the worst thing any of us can do.
No one with a mental health issue wears a badge but just because they don’t doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Let’s not forget that. It’s time to end the Stigma.