Mental illness is a very important issue to me. In light of it being Mental Illness Awareness Week I hope that you will take the time to read this post and perhaps reflect on your own lives, and the lives of those around you. I see people posting during times like these, or tweeting for Bell Let’s Talk and other similar campaigns, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s just going in one ear and out the other. Some of those people I see posting support for the reduction of stigma surrounding mental health are also those who I hear saying things such as “man she’s crazy” or “that’s so depressing” or even (and this also makes me sick to hear) “I’m going to kill myself”. I don’t believe these people say these things to be malicious, but ignorance should not be an excuse to let this behaviour continue.
By calling people names like crazy you are insulting them for an illness beyond their control. By making light of depression by calling everyday things “so depressing” you make it seem as though depression is the same as being casually sad – which it is not. By saying you’re “going to kill yourself” you could be causing SO much pain to somebody who perhaps themselves is contemplating suicide or has lost someone to suicide. These little things are part of the reasons why stigma is still such a big problem. You may try to tell me that you do not believe this is the case, but I can assure you that after constantly hearing people say that depression is something you can just “get over” or that it is the fault of the individual for “being such a pessimist” that people with mental health problems do not feel accepted and safe to talk about their problems.
I hope that awareness weeks and more media attention to this issue will help shift the attitudes out there, but it is everyone’s responsibility to make a conscious effort to be accepting, to make sure your friends and family are okay, to make sure YOU are okay. Mental health issues should never be laughed at, they should never be belittled, and they most certainly should not be pinned as the fault of the individual.
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