You are clearly just looking for attention. Oh, eat a cheeseburger and some fries. It is all in your head; everyone has bad days. Come on, others have it way worse. You are making the choice to live this way – do you not want to get better? But you have a lot to be happy about. Stop feeling so sorry for yourself.
Though indisputably a rather unfortunate and detrimental practice put in place throughout our contemporary culture, a vast majority of subjects of mental illness hear statements resembling those above and worse on a frequent basis. Intentions for such remarks vary; some may be articulated out of frustration or anger, while others are purely due to ignorance. Regardless, all demonstrate the existence of essentially a form of discrimination in itself: a stigma against those with mental illness.
According to Mental Health America, mental illness is “a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.” It encompasses an assortment of diseases proving just as serious as any other, no less severe than the most debilitating of physical ailments, such as cancer or a heart attack. Of these include bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, both common examples of anxiety disorders, among countless others.
Such dismissive judgement is senseless in its entirety, for would you overlook a person boasting a headache and loss of coordination due to a stroke by encouraging them to merely get over it? Tell a being struggling to breath because of pneumonia to stop exaggerating? Accuse an entity contending with a brain tumor to snap out of it? Or would these instances necessitate a more humane response instead of one contributing to profound guilt because their effects are easily perceptible? Nonetheless, perhaps even scarier is the demons a smile can hide, the feelings of hopelessness an aversion of the eyes can downplay, the chaos a carrying on with everyday life can effectively disguise.
In addition, what many fail to consider, in turn often precipitating the aforementioned negligent phrases, is the nature of mental illness. Just because one fails to take notice of the indicators, easily evident of bodily disabilities, does not mean they do not prevail. Indeed, especially taking into account the increasingly advanced state of our world, countless studies have been conducted proving that mental illness does exist. Why then, is it so oftentimes shrugged off as if of some inherently trivial matter?
Furthermore, resulting in just as significant of discontent is the claim that the development and progression of a mental illness is a continual choice at the hands of the said individual experiencing such trauma. However, one does not merely wake up one day and decide they want to be depressed or anorexic, schizophrenic or ridden with anxiety. No, nor do they actively choose to face the struggles they do on a daily basis because of their predicament.
Mental illness is real, as is the stigma surrounding it, nowadays so extensive that society neglects even mentioning it. Its effects vary from day to day, as they do from person to person. It is not defined by appearance, just as the alleged sufferer is not characterized by their condition. It is not a choice, nor a lifestyle. It does not signify that one is less of a person than those boasting a “healthy” life. Therefore, it is hard to understand, among victims, doctors, and ordinary people alike. But that is okay. What is not okay is acceptance of these radiated sentiments of inferiority.
I am confident I speak for a plurality of those dealing with mental illness when I say that they are not asking for any momentous deed, just merely an effort. An effort to understand. An effort to listen. An effort to evade partaking in the hate ever present in our world. Most importantly, an effort to not only defy the shame placed upon these martyrs but spark such rebellion in others.
We need to stop the stigma. Mental illness is an incredibly controversial and touchy subject in itself, particularly among those in the midst of suffering from it. Not only does such negative treatment prompt feelings of inferiority, but also aid in worsening the alleged symptoms often poked fun at. Just as one would negate to pass judgement on someone undergoing influenza, or even a more serious disability, those encountering a mental illness should also be exempt from that which is not under their control. They are people just as you and I, ever in need of empathy and a collaborative increase in humanity, for only through this can we as a whole work toward a world free of one display of prejudice.
Miranda Cox is a student at Mabel-Canton High School. She is one of seven area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 19th year.