I’ve been talking the last two days about stigma. And I want to keep with that theme today. Because the fact is that the stigma is fed by some very loud people. It is fed by those who are without the demons of mental illnesses and are quick to judge those with mental illness as lazy or unstable or somehow defective and have no problem voicing their opinion. Meanwhile, too many of us who do struggle stay in silent because we are busy battling our mental illnesses. And most people fall into a third category. The people in this category don’t battle mental illnesses and don’t voice their opinions. Yet too often all they hear are those who shout, those who use mental illness as an insult, fueling the negative connotation surrounding it. But the truth is that those of us whispering in the darkness outnumber those who are shouting and feeding the negative stigma of mental illness. That is why it is so important to share stories.
Stories have power. Because while only 1 in 4 individuals will experience some sort of a mental illness, everyone has had hurdles they’ve had to overcome. And stories offer common ground where understanding and compassion can be built. And understanding is a key first step to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.
I believe that the mental health movement is getting traction. Social media allows us to connect with one another, sharing our battles, and our encouragement, with one another. It is leveling the playing field, and giving a voice to those who have been drowned out by the shouting, drowned out by the stigma.
And I believe those voices and this movement will continue to grow. You all are doing your part by reading this blog, and for that I am very thankful. Yet more has to be done and I believe more is on the horizon. I believe there will be a day in the not to distant future when stigma is gone. Until then we just have to keep fighting, both against the demons of mental illness and the stigma that shields those demons. Because those of us who whisper in the darkness outnumber those who loudly feed the stigma.
And we are stronger too.
And it does get better.