Recently I was at an event, and when I introduced myself and what I do, quickly the topic of mental health came up. The conversation went something like this:
“I am concerned that all bad behavior is now written off as a mental health illness,” stated someone.
“I worry about the opposite,” I responded.
“What do you mean?” someone asked.
“I am more concerned that we assume anyone with a mental health illness is bad.”
The stigma is real. Our main understanding and knowledge of what mental illness looks like comes from media. Often the image we see of mental illness is someone hurting themselves or hurting others on the news. Soon we begin to think that anyone with a mental illness (especially PTSD, Bipolar, or Schizophrenia) is dangerous. Then when we, or someone we love, start to have symptoms of a mental illness we begin to worry and think, “I hope I’m not crazy”; that negative stigmatizing word, “crazy” like Jack Nicholson infamous picture from The Shining.
The truth is, most people in America have a mental illness. Mental illness does not discriminate. It crosses all demographic and ethnic boundaries. Here are some recent statistics from the CDC:
- More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
- 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
- 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
- 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.”
So what do these statistics mean?
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
It means that mental illness doesn’t always, and most likely rarely, looks like Jack Nicholson in The Shinning. It does, however, looks like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kendall Jenner, Adele, Demi Lovato, Kristen Bell, Prince Harry, and many more. It may even look like the reflection you see in the mirror.
The biggest challenge with the negative stigma is that it prevents many from getting help. As the fear of mental illness grows, seeking treatment diminishes. Yet, most mental health illnesses are treatable which means many suffer needlessly.
If you are suffering, ask for help. There are solutions available that just might work for you.
*Thank you to NAMI for the cure stigma picture.