Being 27 years old and having to deal with Mental Health for most of my life, I can tell you that the stigma on Mental Health has definitely gotten better, but it still is not normalized. Why? That’s a question so many of us ask. If you call your boss and say you have the flu, they usually understand and tell you to stay home and rest, but if you say you are having a bad day and are too anxious to come in you don’t usually get the same response. “Suck it up”, “Deal with it”, Just go to work” have all been said to me when I say I am having a bad day. Ok, I’ll just snap out of my anxiety, cause it’s just that easy, right? Why in the world didn’t I think of that 20 years ago?
The stigma placed on Mental Health can be placed into two different categories, social and internal. The social stigma pinning a negative outlook on Mental Health because so many people who don’t suffer can’t understand because it is not physical. Which is totally fine. We don’t need you to fully understand, we just need acceptance and no damn sympathy! So many times, I have been told “I’m so sorry your feeling this way”. Yeah, so am I, but I don’t need apologies. Instead, make me laugh, strike up a fun convo and just treat me how you treat everyone else. Unless you treat your friends and family badly, then buh-bye!
Then there is internal stigma, which basically is how we who suffer perceive how others see us. Let me tell you, people who suffer from any form of Mental Health are NOT crazy, weird or helpless. We simply have a chemical imbalance which impacts our lives and the way we do things, but it doesn’t make us incompetent or incapable of doing something. It just may take us a little more time, but that’s ok. Everyone does things at their own pace, but because of the social stigma put on Mental Health we fear we won’t be accepted. Personally, I use to hide my anxiety from employers because when I opened up, I got negative responses.
At age 18, I had my first job. I got written up one day for calling out too many times. That’s when I opened up about my anxiety. I clearly remember my boss stare me in the face and say: “So what, I have anxiety too, but I still come to work”. He proceeded to tell me that everyone has anxiety and we have to deal with it. The ignorance that man had to assume that everyone who has anxiety suffers in the same way. I mean, let’s be honest here, we do all have some form of anxiety at some points in our lives. But being diagnosed with a Mental Illness is a completely different story. We can’t just get up and shake it off. Anyways! I quit that job and was terrified to tell future employers about my anxiety because of that situation.
Now, almost 10 years later the stigma on mental health still a topic of discussion. It’s not hard to accept that Mental Illness is real and painful to those impacted. If you don’t suffer but know someone who does, even if you don’t, don’t judge! Know your facts and don’t feel sorry for us. Be kind, have patience and just simply be there for friends, family and employees- I can’t stress that enough! #breakthestigma