It’s the final week of the Summer Storytelling Challenge and the topic is…
“What does stigma mean to you?”
Stigma can come in many different forms but the one experience which sticks out to me was when many years ago I went to see a doctor about panic attacks – I didn’t know what they were, I was young and mental health wasn’t really spoken about then. However when I saw the doctor she said “it happens to everyone your age” and that was it… I went away feeling confused and upset. My friends weren’t experiencing these and I felt alone and didn’t know what to do. That one instance stopped me seeking further help for many years until I reached a very low point.
If someone you know comes to you and says they are struggling in any way don’t defer them away – listen to them and yes it may be confusing and scary to hear but that person needs help. You may not understand what they are going through but don’t tell them ‘it happens to everyone’ or ‘ why can’t you just be happy’.
Stigma can stop people from reaching out for help or talking about how they are feeling. It can make peoples situations worse. If someone experiences stigma it can really affect how someone is feeling about themselves. When you have a mental illness it is hard, confusing and affects every aspect of your life – so when you experience stigma it doesn’t help the situation.
Of course since my diagnoses I am worried about what if professionally people don’t think I can do my job or think I’m ‘crazy’. However I try not to overthink these situations.. I think the more open I am about my own mental illness it helps me to ignore some of the comments and not let me affect me as much.
The more we talk about mental heath and mental illnesses the more we end the stigma.