Stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental health issues are such powerful things. They prevent people from being open about their struggles, make people resistant to receiving the treatment they need, and they make it challenging for us to know how to receive and accept it when others are actually courageous enough to be open about their struggles.
Stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental health make those with mental health disorders who want to be open wonder: how much can I safely share without having someone question my sanity?, will people think I am doing it for attention?, will someone question my ability to do my job?, will I have someone question my ability to deal with life?, will I have someone fire me?.
Most physical conditions do not have the same kind of stigma attached to them as mental conditions. They just don’t. If someone shares they have the flu or diabetes, most people accept this at face value. Many people will even tell them that they hope they feel better soon. With conditions like generalized anxiety, major depression, and bipolar, often this is not the case. Many of those who suffer with mental health disorders have to deal with being treated as if they are weak, crazy, pathetic, defective, or that their condition isn’t even valid. The irony is that many of those with mental health issues already think poorly of themselves and the last thing they need in their recovery journey is this type of negativity.
But I am encouraged by the trend I see of more people being open. Often, being open can be freeing and healing. And I think people need to know often those who are vocal are not seeking attention but rather do it as a step toward their own healing/recovery and as a step toward defeating the stigma, showing others they don’t need to be ashamed.
I will add that, sometimes, the place to be raw is not social media. Social media is a great way to let others know their is help and they are not alone. However, not all who read will be ready to receive what you share in the way you intend. Their are times when being vulnerable and raw-breaking stigma- simply involves talking privately with someone you trust about what you are struggling with. Sometimes the most healing thing to do is breaking the silence one conversation at the time.