I recently lost one of my closest friends to suicide. The shame around those who are suffering from mental illness hurts me to my core. I suffered from deep depression for years, had suicidal thoughts, and was extremely overweight. To battle those types of burdens (any mental illness) and manage to stay functional takes strength that few can truly understand.
There is such a strong stigma in our culture that is associated with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other mental health conditions. From a young age, children are taught negative attitudes, stereotypes, and perceptions towards others who are different. As a society, we do not teach mindsets of understanding, growth and development, compassion or acceptance.
Those who suffer from these conditions are often, considered weak and so they do their best to hide it. They feel ashamed of their vulnerability of being discovered and unaccepted by their loved ones, community, and in their career paths. I know how it feels to hide mental illness, to keep it a dirty secret. The shame of being considered; an unproductive member of society.
The fear of being judged, misunderstood, and socially rejected causes those who suffer to distance themselves. The isolation and loneliness truly only worsens the illness. Studies have shown that emotional isolation is a high risk factor for mortality. It sends misleading hormonal signals that change the molecules on genes that govern behavior. It exacerbates and manifests neurological systems; how they communicate and work within the body. As many as 40 percent of Americans don’t feel close to other people or feel as though, they have any social support.
This shame, stigma, fear, embarrassment, and rejection associated around mental health is the biggest barrier to mental health treatment. People develop this “why try, why care, and nobody else cares” attitude to avoid having to feel any of those things.
It takes a lot of awareness, re-education, support, funding, compassion and understanding to help fight the epidemic of mental illnesses. We can all play a part of helping fight this battle. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to communicate with loved ones. How important intimacy, a sense of belonging, and acceptance is.
Most people, families, and so on are not prepared to cope with someone they love or know who have a mental illness. When it comes to mental illness people can be so insensitive and say hurtful things. We should endeavor to show and offer more compassion, support, and understanding to those who need it. We can all learn to understand what it is, engage new ways of coping with its symptoms, and use available resources.
People who suffer from a mental illness, do not just find a cure. We simply learn to manage it more effectively. These illnesses have no boundaries, come and go as they like, and we must learn how manage it. With a heavy heart, we say goodbye to those who lose their battle and take their own lives due to a mental health illness.