Living With Mental Illness

Knowledge is power.

The only way to combat the stigma around mental health is with knowledge.

Stigma and discrimination is a major problem. Take this meme that’s been doing the rounds over the last few days: http://memebase.cheezburger.com/share/7937393408 No one treats physical illnesses in this way. Imagine if they did? Still this is a recurrent attitude shown towards people with mental health.

Everyone knows about stigma and discrimination towards people suffering from mental health issues, yet they are still a problem. A hugely damaging problem. Despite the fact we have come so far from vague roots of psychology’s beginning. Mental illnesses are now evidence based. Evidence-based people, yes a particular diagnosis may not fit everyone (everyone is unique) but it is still statistically shown to exist. We have the DSM; mental illnesses are categorised and labelled, they have symptoms, prevalence rates, known subtypes, evidence-based (see those words again) treatments and therapies. Yet how many people suffering from depression have been told, by family, by friends, by a total stranger, to “just snap out of it”.

People who have mental illnesses are often on the receiving end of abuse and prejudice; some even fail to get jobs (despite being fully capable of that job). If you’re interested in finding out about the damage stigma can cause, how widespread it is, what you can do to help, look at these:

Time To Change: Stigma and Discrimination

BBC: Students help peers to break stigma in the West Midlands

The stigma of mental illness and ways of diminishing it by Peter Byrne

Or simply have a Google.

But today I am going to steal a line from here : “Research shows that the best way to challenge these stereotypes is through firsthand contact with people with experience of mental health problems”

We can’t provide a one-on-one meet-and-greet but in this age of technology we’re going to do our best to give you firsthand. I have been in contact with some wonderful people who have agreed to write about their experiences with mental health for PsyBites. This series is going to be called Living With Mental Illness and the first post will be appearing later today! And this is huge; they are after all writing about something incredibly personal that they are under absolutely no obligation to share with all of us. I remember the first autobiography I read by someone with a mental illness, I was overwhelmed that they had chosen to share their inner most thoughts, fears, and hopes. I have so much respect for all those authors who bare their souls on paper and ink and I want you to experience that feeling too. 

But we want more. So if you have a story to share, an experience to tell, please email Sophie Smart at ses165@bham.ac.uk All emails will be treated as confidential whether you go on to write for us or not. If you decide it is something you wish to do, the choice is completely yours as to whether you write anonymously or not.

I really hope as many of you as possible think about sharing your thoughts with us. If that’s not for you, you can still contribute. Read these stories; give the writers the respect they deserve, and share. If you read these stories you are less likely to show prejudice (and doing this accidentally can happen), and equality between mental and physical illnesses becomes that little bit more possible. Share, share, share… knowledge is, after all, power.

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5 responses to “Living With Mental Illness

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