Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

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Light is Easy to Love, Show Me Your Darkness
— R. Queen

I want you to picture a gigantic bubble. Inside this bubble, the world is a magical place, and the mental health of others is never compromised or in question. Where life is kept positive, and light. I know- it’s almost comical to think that so many are living inside this bubble, naively trying to protect others, or themselves, from the reality of those that suffer from mental illness. They may say “it’s all in your head” or ask questions like “why are you so sensitive?” It’s no surprise there lies such a large veil of shame over the heads of those that suffer from mental illness.  

Society decided centuries ago that any behavior deemed “out of the ordinary” meant jail time, being isolated from society or completely ignored. This stigma attached to mental illness causes many to suffer in silence.  

According to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), approximately 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness, and half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, with years before any treatment is made. The statistics go on, and they are heartbreaking. 

I am not an expert on mental illness, but I am human. Therefore I have witnessed others in my life battling addictions due to the unresolved trauma they faced within their lives. I have seen friends and family suffer from anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. I have battled with my own obsessive compulsive behavior since childhood. 

Collectively I believe we can begin to break the falsehoods attached to mental illness so that others can begin to heal knowing that they have support and someone to confide in.

Listen Without Judgement

Reach out to those in your life that are struggling with any form of mental illness, and give them the floor to say what they need to. Most of us listen to reply, rather than listen to understand, without even realizing. Allow them to vent, discuss how they are feeling and create a safe space for them to talk without feeling any judgment.

There is a strong psychological comfort in being able to share your story and open up about how you are feeling. Sometimes just being an ear for someone is one of the most compassionate things you can do for another. 

Educate Yourself and Suggest Resources

If someone in your life is reluctant to ask for help, your research into looking for resources that can be made available to them and familiarizing yourself with their condition is a great way to get the conversation started. The more we know and understand what others are going through, the easier it will be for them to open up and consider help.  

Whether it be suggesting a therapist, a reiki practitioner, a yoga class, or just a quiet hike, letting someone know that you care about their well being and have helped to provide them useful tools as they work through their mental illness, is also a way to let them know they are loved. Family and friends are that invaluable resource for individuals with a mental illness. 

Be The Light

It is the grand illusion of life that existing solely within our comfort zone will keep us safe. That we can’t learn from those who are walking a different path. We all need others, and others will need us, to find the beauty and the balance in life. To unearth all of the darkness others may be facing, they have to reach into the parts of themselves where it stays hidden. And they can’t do this alone. Be the light for them.  

In opposing forces, there will always lie a small piece of the other. They exist in each other and need the other to exist. While one force dominates, it’s replaced by its opposing force. The idea here is that being a positive force and light in someone’s life who is struggling with mental illness, will slowly build a strength in them. It will help carry them through each day.  

Your light will shine brighter, and light their way.