Stigma: It’s up to us

mental illness stigmaIt saddens me that in 2013 we are still very much dealing with a strong stigma surrounding the Mentally Ill.  Seeking help for a condition of the mind is seen as shameful and a sign of weakness.  Mental Illness is pushed to the side by the government, as staff are overworked, and underpaid.

Everyday in social media I see a myriad of quotes on pictures that depict a person as being strong if they buck up and take their struggles on the chin.  A kind of ‘pull your socks up’ approach to something that has a real impact on people’s lives everyday.  It is through the continuation of this myth that admitting you aren’t sailing so smoothly that the stigma is allowed to thrive.

Being a martyr doesn’t help yourself, and especially not those around you.  I hate this idea that I am weak because I share my problems, or that I take medications for those problems.  If I had a broken bone I would seek medical treatment, and in fact would be seen as stupid if I didn’t.  Help for our physical ailments is readily available, while many people don’t even know where to begin if they start to notice they are struggling.

A stay in hospital for a physical ailment sees a person showered in gifts, visitors and well wishers.  While a stay in a psychiatric unit often makes people feel uncomfortable.  Unsure what to say, whether to visit or afraid of the other patients and so refuse to visit.

The only answer to stigma is education.  We need to start teaching people the facts, not relying on fear mongering that is portrayed in the media.  Through working together we can remove the way of thinking that a person is horrible, or to be feared if they have a mental illness.

According to Sane Australia 20% of the population suffers from a mental illness in any one year.  Mental Illness is not a 1 in a million sufferer illness, there is a chance that someone you know has suffered with a mental illness.  People with a mental illness need support, not revulsion.  With the right amount of support and medications many people who suffer from a long term mental illness can go on to lead successful lives.

I hope that by providing this space I can do my part to help chip away at the stigma.  I hope that through talking about my experiences with mental illness that I can help people to feel that they aren’t so alone.  If my blog makes even one person change their mind, then my job is done.

Linking up with Slapdash Mama for The Lounge.

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14 thoughts on “Stigma: It’s up to us

  1. Sarah@Slapdash Mama

    It’s so true. I am still embarrassed to talk about my mentalness to some people, and when I am candid and honest about my struggles there are people in my life who I think sort of pity me and judge me or even use it against me. At the very least there are so many people who have NO understanding of mental illness and how to talk about it, even people who would probably benefit from some treatment themselves!!!

  2. katyberry

    I love that this is your passion, and that you keep seeking to educate people about mental health.
    When no-one talks about it, it is easy to feel like it’s not my problem, but as you say, people all around me might be suffering silently, or feeling shame for seeking assistance, and it needs to be brought out so that the stigma goes away

  3. Vanessa @

    Totally agree with this but it is getting better out there. I went to the beautician while I was in hospital last week just for a eyebrow shape and eyelash tint because I was sick of feeling so crappy without make up. The beautician asked if I was out for the day shopping. I said no, I was an inpatient at the local psych hospital. “Wow, really?” she said. I was like, “Yeah, really, it is just up the road”.

    I think she was just surprised I came straight out with it. Once the shock passed she was so lovely.

    One of the people I was in with said her husband and kids hated that she was in hospital (major depression/anxiety) and felt uncomfortable coming to visit. I felt really bad for her because it just exacerbated her condition.

    I’m lucky I have really supportive family and friends. And I just say it for how it is. Our missions are the same on that one, Tegan – to educate and help eradicate the stigma around mental illness in all its forms.

    Good post.


  4. Me

    I think you are doing an amazing job regarding educating people about mental illness. I know that my family don’t like to talk about it and would prefer I didn’t but at the end of the day,it’s part of who I am and I can’t change that.
    Have the best day !

  5. Vanessa

    I’m in two minds about this. They had a lot of ads on tv earlier this year to try and reduce stigma. I’d never thought about judging someone for visiting a doctor for mental health as opposed to physical health, so to me the ads sort of introduced the concept of the stigma against mental health. Perhaps I’m in the minority view of these public health campaign ads…

  6. Rhonda

    I agree 120%!

    I’m getting a little tired of people who judge others who claim they have a mental illness. We are not in their heads, so how do we know whether they’re being truthful or not? We don’t, therefore we can’t judge.

    If someone comes to me and says they’re depressed or are hearing voices, my job is to listen and help the best that I can. They came to me because they trust me. Even if this means to help them find the phone number for specialists who can help them, I will pause my life and give a hand.

  7. lisa

    Tegan, your blog is such a powerful tool to help people who have mental illness and those who need to be educated about mental illness. Hopefully one day, the stigma will be gone.

  8. Lani

    You’re absolutely spot on. Education is the way to go. And it should start young – at high school for example in a public health class – not just to educate people generally but so that if they themselves face mental illness, such as depression, later in life, they will have the knowledge to better deal with it.


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