Dealing With The Hidden Illness
When someone is sick you give them chicken noodle soup. Maybe you write them a get well card. Maybe you bring balloons and teddy bears to cheer them up. Maybe you just go and hang out with them even though their flu is contagious.
There are a lot of different ways to deal with different types of sickness. One of these sicknesses, in particular, though, is shunned by the majority of the population. Most people want to ignore the sickness, and they don’t like to acknowledge it with soup, cards, or balloons.
I am talking about mental illness.
Rather than embracing those struggling with depression, anxiety or other various mental health disorders, we often ignore them. We don’t want to be near these people, afraid their “crazy” will rub off on us.
We make jokes about mental illness; even I have been known to crack a joke or two:
“OMG you are being SO bipolar right now!”
“Ugh! I have so much work I just want to kill myself!”
“Why are you acting like such a retard?”
Think about it, you would never laugh about cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, roughly 450 MILLION people suffer from some sort of mental health illness across the globe. Nearly 1 MILLION people commit suicide per year. One in four people suffers from a mental health disorder. Worst of all, those suffering from a mental health disorder struggle with the stigma surrounding them and their diagnosis.
I think that we need to erase this stigma. Just because someone is not physically ill, does not mean they are not sick. Just because we can’t see the illness doesn’t mean it is not there and it definitely does not hurt any less. Just because they are diagnosed does not make them “crazy.”
They are people, just like us.
This stigma surrounding mental health portrays those with a diagnosis as dangerous and a threat to society. This is a painful reality that I know very well. Mental illness has a strong presence in my family; I have suffered my bouts of mild depression and anxiety. I have come to terms with the fact that sometimes I don’t feel 100%, and it is something that I have learned to live with combat.
Dealing With The Hidden Illness: Currently, someone I love very dearly is having a very difficult time with their diagnosis. On the outside, she is brave, strong, hilarious, witty, and beautiful. On the inside, though, she feels dark, down, and empty. This does not make her any less of a human being and her diagnosis should NEVER be the punchline of your joke.
Instead of shunning those with a diagnosis, we need to embrace them.
We don’t know what people are going through inside their minds. Your joke about anxiety may be the trigger sending them spiraling downward. Think before you speak.
Mental health needs to be treated with more respect. No one wishes to be diagnosed with a disorder, just like no one wishes to get an ear infection. Keep in mind that you do not know the inner dealings of your peer, and you don’t know how your words may hurt them.
I’m not asking you to go give your anxious peer chicken noodle soup so she can heal. I’m not asking for you to send a get well card to the boy who had to go into treatment at a hospital. All I am asking is that today we begin to think before we speak. Start erasing the “crazy” stigma from your mind.
Today I want you to give everyone you love a hug or a kind word.
You don’t know how much it may mean to them.