There is a stigma surrounding mental health that needs to be broken. People suffering with these illnesses are bounded by the stereotypes that tend to follow them. They are frequently described as dangerous, unpredictable, incompetent, irresponsible, undeserving, dishelved, and hopeless. These descriptions could be farther from the truth, but lack of knowledge surrounding these mental diseases create prejudices. Fear is the number one judgement, followed by exclusion. Society tends to distress over the mental health of an individual and prohibited from joining in social activities and the general community.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve been deathly afraid of developing a mental illness. My family history of mental illness demonstrates that the possibility of me being diagnosed with an illness is high. My mother suffers from anxiety and depression. My father has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) & we feel there are additional illnesses at play. My grandmother has suffered from anxiety & depression (and is rumored to also struggle with bipolar disorder). My grandfather suffers from schizophrenia and depression. My great-grandmother suffered from schizophrenia, depression, and even went psychotic. To say that the odds are not in my favor is being generous.
The idea of developing a mental illness was frightening to me – Questions would flood my mind about how I could survive in society as a “crazy person”. For a long time, I was one of many who believed the stigma that follows mental illness. I convinced myself that it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I would work myself up about it, dreading the possibility that I would one day go postal, drown my children, or become a homeless person.
The truth is, yes, horrible circumstances described above happen to mentally ill people. However, there are millions of people that have been able to live with and manage their disease. Looking at my own family, they all live as normal members of society. My mother is a fantastic writer and public relations manager, my father works for the city, my grandfather built his own house & works on pipelines, and my grandmother used to be a nurse. Did, at some point, they struggle internally? Of course. There were months or years when they stopped taking medication, times when their illness took over, days when my mother would lay in bed all day, periods where my grandfather buckled and gave the voices control.
As a young woman, I only ever looked at these bad events when making judgments about mental illness. For some time, I forgot how ordinary my family looks to society. They aren’t dangerous or incompetent. They certainly are not dishelved and undoubtedly not hopeless. They just happen to have some extra struggles on their plate, but I feel they are stronger than the average mentally stable person because they have been through so much.
There was a point in my life where I realized that no matter how hard I try, I could still end up with a mental illness. As soon as I realized this & accepted my possible fate, it became easier to see how wrong these stereotypes are & we need to stop judging people by their mental illness & remember to look at them as a whole.