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For a few years now, I have been a strong supporter in trying to raise awareness against the mental health stigma. In my junior year of high school, I was put on medication for anxiety, but I had been dealing with anxiety and depression long before that, and even to this day. At first, I was embarrassed about being medicated because I thought that made me weak. In reality, that was not the case. It was a few months after when I first heard the song "Bird Set Free" by Sia. Sia, who has bipolar disorder, wrote this song to show others that you can fly high even if you suffer from something that others believe to limit your abilities. Since I have heard this song, I have been trying to fight the mental health stigma that exists in our society today.
"Bird Set Free" by Sia
Most people who suffer from a mental illness have been discriminated against. They have been told they are weak, or that they can control it only if they tried. Even worse is that some people believe they are dangerous because of their illness. This discrimination causes people to feel ashamed. Furthermore, the stigma can worsen someone’s mental health because they become afraid to seek the help they need. To make matters worse, the use of media has exacerbated the problem. There have been many times where the media will link violence with mental health by portraying these people as criminals.
So how do we fight against the mental health stigma? Below are some ways I have found to be the best at making others aware of this problem.
- Talk openly to others about it. I help to fight the stigma by openly talking about my mental health issues, in-person and on social media. Not everyone is going to accept or sympathize with you, but it’s a great way to make others aware of the situation.
- Educate yourself about it. I take every opportunity I can to learn more about mental health and how it affects individuals. The more I learn, the more information I can share with others.
- Encourage others to treat mental illness like a physical illness. Most people don’t understand that mental illness is exactly like a physical illness. A mental illness is a health condition that affects the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves making it difficult to function. In reality, mental illness is basically a physical illness, and if people treat it that way, they will think twice about making hurtful comments about it.
- Choose empowerment. I refuse to let my mental health own my life. I choose to not let others tear me down, and instead, I let it build me up and make me stronger.
- Let the media know when they are being stigmatizing. Like I said before, the media only makes this situation worse. Whenever I see something on social media that discriminates negatively against mental illness, I will say something. The only way we can get the media to stop this is by standing up against them.
- Focus on positivity. All the media does is scrutinize people who suffer from mental health issues by labeling them criminals. In reality, there are many people with mental health problems that have been successful and made valuable contributions to society. Instead, let’s recognize these people who have made a difference in the world despite their health problem.
- Show LOVE to everyone. In my opinion, the most important way to fight the stigma is to show love. Love is and will always be stronger than hate. Like Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that.” Therefore, it is important to love one another because a little love will go a long way in fighting the mental health stigma.