We all know the stigma against mental illness is great – and worth battling – but not every person with mental illness wants to use their life as a political voice for normalising mental illness, so it’s an ever perpetuating situation.
Usually divulging information on mental illness results in one or more of these reactions:
1) It undermines the relationship, causes mistrust, people don’t wish to rely on us or avoid us.
2) Exposes us to misinterpretation, people default to the nearest possible named condition they are familiar with and represent us with an incorrect diagnosis.
3) People assume it’s untrue, because we seem fine around them, yet most unwellness is a heavily-guarded private reality that can often take place indoors and the worst of it is usually out of sight.
4) They act like medicating is a weak choice, having the privilege of only ever suffered from conditions that can be handled non-medicinally, forgetting they would not say this to an asthmatic.
5) They suggest “lifestyle changes” as though they even understand what it takes for an unwell person to even complete simple tasks. Forgetting that most people have tried these or are desperately driven to make lifestyle changes in conjunction with other treatments.
6) Scorn psychiatry and psychology, being unware that some people don’t have any choice but accept help from various professionals and agencies.
7) Stop trusting what we say and suddenly all opinions, ideas, boundaries and preferences are categorised as a consequence of illness.
8) Talk about recovery in a flippant way, not understanding that for most people there isn’t any permanent state of recovery, there are times of difficulty, times that aren’t difficult, and that those with mental health issues aren’t just a project that requires fixing. Part of the solution is acceptance.
9) Forgetting it’s as legitimate as a medical concern.
11) Expecting too much.
12) Portray us as weak and not in control of our mind due to some deficit of trying or character flaw. Imply it’s due to a lack of positive thinking – which is irrational – it doesn’t make sense to suggest to someone whose mind is sometimes out of control that they ought to control it through trying.
13) Don’t want to hire us, love us, let us rent a property, involve us in projects.
14) Gossip about us and call us names to our faces or behind our backs.
15) Fail to reach out or actually support us in ways that are useful; housework, checking in, letting us vent, asking what we need, etc.
16) Act embarrassed of us.
18) Take advantage of us.
19) Like us when we’re well and reject us when we’re not.
20) Rape, harm or violate us.
21) Threaten to take our children off us. This is important, a lot of women do not discuss their need for help because of the ever-present threat brought to our doors by well-intentioned friends, partners and family members who – instead of supporting us – would rather call invasive government services and impose the fear of losing our most precious loved-ones. This disincentives many people – particularly women – from seeking help, yet seeking help is the responsible thing to do, and surely means they have shown they’re able to act in the best interest of their child.
Who would want to expose themselves to all of that? If you want to support people with mental health issues, please take time to consider this post.