More talking. Less whispering.
Struggling with mental health issues? We need to talk.
When we set aside the stigma and start talking openly and honestly about mental health, some amazing things begin to happen. We raise awareness and understanding for mental illness. We remove the shame and the secrecy surrounding these challenges. We offer support and empathy for people who feel alone or isolated. And we spread hope for recovery and living a normal life. Here are just some of the stories that are inspiring us right now.
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The anti-stigma campaign is taking effect already! Since I took the pledge 8 days ago, three friends each approached me and told me they had experienced severe depression. I have known these friends for years but never knew about their suffering. Now I can be an understanding ear and support system for them. Makes me wonder how many other people I know who need help and support but are afraid to talk about it. Keep the conversation going!
I think this is great what you are doing to bring awareness to this subject! I myself suffer from panic and anxiety disorder and it’s very helpful to hear other people’s stories! I myself am writing a book about my experience with post partum ANXIETY—not depression, but anxiety. I feel most women don’t know what they are experiencing and feel helpless at such a vulnerable and important time … what helped me was to know I wasn’t alone!
My senior year of high school, I was severely depressed and anxious. I thought about killing myself. I was afraid to tell my mom because I knew the truth would have devastated her. She wouldn’t understand. She would be hurt and disappointed in me. I almost let stigma get in the way. The day I broke down and told my mom was the first step in finding peace. I still struggle with depression & anxiety, but I am no longer afraid to talk about. I am no longer ashamed.
Maybe it was stigma…
I guess my sense of stigma began as a child when I had trouble explaining why my mom couldn’t come to my kindergarten play because she was bedridden with depression and hearing voices. Or, when my friends who came over always played with me in the basement so they wouldn’t run into her. I guess it was stigma I felt when my mom died when I was 10 and I had to explain to my befuddled classmates that I felt sad but I hadn’t really been extremely close to her because she was mostly too incapacitated to hold a conversation. It was probably stigma when we didn’t ever talk about “mom’s problems” until my brother came home delusional and had to be hospitalized too. It was probably stigma when my first girlfriend in high school broke up with me because there was “something wrong with me”. Maybe it was stigma when some friends just didn’t call anymore and perhaps even gossiped about me behind my back. Maybe it was stigma when a professor said my problems were “just a matter of self discipline,” or when another girlfriend said I should “just read the Bible and trust Jesus.” Maybe it’s stigma when my mentally well siblings don’t want to hurt their careers by mentioning their family has “a history.” Maybe its stigma when I had an angry embittered boss who basically saw people as either strong or weak… and its just too bad if you are the latter. Maybe it was stigma when I couldn’t explain to my coworkers why I missed a couple of days of work because I was so scared after hearing “hidden messages” on the radio or another day when I had plans to jump from a building. Maybe it was stigma when people lectured me on my smoking when it was the only way I had at the time to slow down the terror I felt inside. Maybe it was stigma when a family member said I needed help when I was just expressing an opinion they don’t happen to agree with or when they say they went through the “same thing” (sorry, you didn’t).
However…maybe it wasn’t stigma when the store clerk greeted me with a smile and knew my name even though my hair was a mess and I felt little sick from my meds.
And, maybe it wasn’t stigma when someone said to me “I am hurting too” and I can honestly and truthfully tell them, “it’s hard to understand this now, but this really isn’t your fault.”
My brother has a chronic illness and is very depressed. I’ve suggested therapy to him and to my family and no one seems to listen. They think he’ll be labelled as “crazy.” If only there was less shame in just talking to someone.
We noticed our daughter seemed anxious and some symptoms were starting to get more and more apparent. We talked to our pediatrician and she pointed us to a therapist. Our daughter learned some great coping mechanisms that she still uses today. We are proud of her and happy that we did not just ignore the signs.
I never admitted to anyone that I went to therapy as a kid. I was embarrassed and thought people would say I was weird. It took me until I was 35 years old to admit it to people. I don’t even know why.
Technology as a tool.
I think the rights and respect for the mentally ill have improved greatly in many ways during the past 30 years. It is no longer so taboo to talk about and many more people understand that much of our emotional suffering can be explained by science. There is still a tremendous amount for us to learn about our brains and how they create consciousness, but we all try to come to realize that we are all connected and function best when we try our best to help each other. The tragedy of mental illness has always been mostly one of isolation, but now there are many more ways through social media and other organizations for us to connect. We can share experiences and trade notes of what seems to work and what doesn’t seem to work to make us all emotionally happier and physically healthier.
An example of how technology has helped in me this area is when I use Skype to video conference a friend who has been hospitalized for mental and physical problems out of state for nearly 8 years. I can’t travel to visit her, but because of the Internet, I can converse with her and even show her what our new kitten has been up to. It seems like a such small thing but it seems to make her so happy and she really looks forward to our short 15 minute conferences. I can’t give up on my fellow mentally ill friends, because they never give up on me.
My brother is bipolar. I am proud of that. Not because of the diagnosis, but because he understands who he is and what he needs to do to keep things under control. Now, I can be there for him and listen instead of judging.
I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I had a hard time going on class trips or having sleepovers with friends. As a teenager, my anxiety worsened and I felt depressed. My parents supported me when I asked to see a therapist; they told me they were proud of me for speaking up and prioritizing my mental health.
That pride is something I carry with me today in my mental health journey.