Nuts. Disturbed. Psycho. Crazy. Unpredictable. Mental. Freak. Downer. Demented. Spastic. Problem Child. Head case. Deranged. Emotionally Disturbed. Irrational. Psychopath. Reject. Unstable. F#$*ed in the Head.
Some of these are medical terms of days gone past, others are slang or colloquialisms. All of these are just some of the horrible, hateful words that are used to describe people who act outside the norm or struggle with mental illness. The list goes on and on. In fact, researchers reported in 2007 on a list of 250 terms or names that children associated with persons struggling with mental illness.
The media has used words like Schizophrenic and Bi-Polar as adjectives in the headlines. People with mental health issues have repeatedly been portrayed as “nuckingfuts” in children’s cartoons all the way up to the silver screen. What kind of damage are we doing, what barriers are we creating and whose lives are we objectifying on a daily basis?
Dictionary.com defines Stigma as: “stig·ma – ˈstiɡmə/- noun: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person, i.e. the stigma of mental disorder.”
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but stigmas will forever break me.
Let’s dispel stigma with the truth: Mental illness is a common issue, affecting 1 in 5 people. That 20 percent of the population will struggle with mental health issues at some time during or throughout their lifetime. They are affected by issues we can’t always see.
It leads to other illnesses and serious outcomes including suicide. There were over 41,000 completed suicides in the year 2013, according to Save.org. That’s roughly 105 suicides per day, or 1 every 13 minutes. And those are just the “successful” suicides. For every completed suicide, there are 25 attempts, which is over 1 million attempts per year.
Take a look around and count the 5 people closest to you. One of you is silently suffering from something we can’t see.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but stigmas will forever chain me.
When someone suffers from mental illness, they face another challenge: The stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. “Despite the existence of effective treatments for mental disorders, there is a belief that they are untreatable or that people with mental disorders are difficult, aggressive, not intelligent, or incapable of making decisions,” reports World Health Organization.
And these continued stigmas prevent individuals from seeking help by discouraging positive action and fostering abuse, rejection, isolation and exclusion. The thought process is thus: Why seek help if persecution, ridicule and more emotional pain is part of the equation? Why add more shame, when you have already managed to suffer silently for so many years?
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but stigmas will forever shame me.
Recent published studies have reported closer to 25 percent of all American adults struggle daily with mental illness and that nearly 50 percent of all U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
If a fifth to a quarter of Americans have daily challenges with mental illness and half will develop at least one in their lifetimes, it is time to change. Every one of us will come face-to-face with mental illness during our time on Earth, whether it’s because we suffer it or a loved one does.
It is time to change the way we look at mental health. It is time to change the way we talk about mental health. It is time to change the way we provide services for mental health. It is time to change the way we isolate those with mental health issues. It is time to change the way we fund and provide services for mental health. One life lost is one to many and it should always matter, even when it doesn’t directly affect you.
Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, stigma, hatred, we are all held down.
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