In the article published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nine ways are described in order to fight stigmas surrounding mental health. The first, which I believe to be the most crucial, is to “talk openly about mental health.” This simple rule plays a large role in mine and Olivia’s strategy to mitigate mental health stigma; moreover, as I described in my last blog post, it is our goal to utilize the art of story-telling to diminish stigma.
The second article brings up a terrible misconception, something that, to be honest, I believed for a long time: people with mental illness are weak– suck it up. It’s easy to look from the exterior and make assumptions about another’s mental state. I know in high school there were times where I spoke to kids when it was visible that something was affecting them mentally. Many of them were not sleeping, binge eating or not eating at all, and not conversating with their peers as usual. Were they depressed?
I mean we had a lot of homework and all, and I was able to get it done and deal with the stress, so they should be able to too. Right?
But, it’s not that easy because there could have been so many other things in their life contributing to their physical appearance and mental state. How would I know?
I have to go back to storytelling. If we are able to find students who have experienced mental illness to share their story, the things going on in their life, the way they felt, who they leaned on etc. people will be able to get a glimpse into what it is like to live with mental illness. This will add a personal approach to the topic. Many people would know the person talking; moreover, maybe you see a friend from home speak, or a kid you sit next to in Biology and you will think to yourself “this could happen to anyone” or “Wow he/she seemed so normal I’m shocked.”
Storytelling is powerful, and I believe it is powerful enough to end the stigma surrounding mental health.