There is quite the stigma attached to mental illness. Like most things in life, it’s something that’s hard to understand unless you’ve been through it. It’s just the fact of the matter. There are so many things each of us withstands in life, and unless we go through each of them personally, we really don’t understand how it feels. It’s unfortunate, but true. As hard as we try, it can be difficult to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
When I struggled with my mental illness, I was terrified, absolutely terrified, to share with the world what was going through my head. I didn’t want to be deemed as crazy or fragile. I was looking for support; the last thing I wanted was for people to look at me like I was broken. I wasn’t broken. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was stronger than ever.
Imagine if people with cancer or diabetes got blamed for being sick. That sounds absolutely insane, doesn’t it? It is. How could you blame someone for being sick? The thing with mental illness is that people rarely see it as a sickness. We simply lack the education that provides us with this information. It holds little to no educational importance.
I learned absolutely nothing about mental illness in school. Everything I learned was self-taught, research or just bits and pieces taught in a psych class. Here’s the harm in a young 11-year-old girl doing her own research on mental illness. It is so terribly easy to become misinformed. I had no idea what was going on with me.
This is where a stigma gets created. A stigma gets created when individuals are uneducated on a subject. When you don’t understand something, you begin to assume things. It’s just simple human nature. We constantly desire knowledge and we fill in the gaps as best we can in areas we don’t understand.
I used to be so petrified to speak up about my mental illness. Like I said, I didn’t want to be deemed as crazy. That’s the stigma. You hear depressed and you just think someone is overly emotional. I was so scared that these aspects that made me, me, would get written off. I feared I would be told it was just my PMS acting up, or just because of my age, ‘we all go through it.’ right?
Erikson, a psychologist, proposed the theory of identity vs. role confusion. This is just one aspect of the Erikson theory as a whole. Within every tier of his theory, an existential question is proposed. Between the ages of 12-18, when identity vs. role confusion is said to occur, Who Am I and What Can I Be? is the existential question proposed.
If you agree with this theory, you can understand why there is so much struggle within our youth. You are dealing with such a difficult time in your life; facing judgment not only from your peers but from yourself. You are most likely going to struggle terribly with trying to figure out who you are.
No adult is the same person they were when they were 13. We are such dynamic creatures. We are constantly learning and growing. We crave new information on a regular basis. It’s how we’re wired. We struggle so much to figure out who we are at 13, but why? Who we are at 13 is not who we’re going to be for the rest of our life. Regardless it happens, regardless so much of our youth struggles with this.
Even worse so much of our youth is trying to figure out how to speak up about their struggles. It’s so taboo to speak up about the way you’re feeling. Even if someone spends every waking hour being upset about something, telling someone to just ‘get over it’ is impractical. Sometimes all you can do is wait it out.
We have to teach people that it’s okay to feel things, it’s okay to be upset about things. That doesn’t make you crazy. There should be no shame in having emotions and being comfortable enough to express those emotions. You are human.
If you want more information on ending the stigma go to http://bringchange2mind.org