Let's Finally End the Stigmas Attached to Mental Illnesses

There are millions of people around the world who suffer from mental illnesses. There are millions of others who know of someone suffering from a mental illness. Although I have not experienced a battle with mental illness, I have seen its awful effects firsthand.

My dad was diagnosed with depression when I was 15. He went from being this lively, funny, outgoing person to a calm, sluggish, melancholic state. He loved to eat, but when he was depressed, he lost so much weight. He loved to get up early and work all day. He couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning and even when he did he ended up coming home from work early. When he grew anxious, he would pace across the house breathing into a paper bag.

This wasn’t my dad.

This disease took over his life. He was like a shell of a person. Unfortunately, while he was at the lowest he ever falt,  his younger brother, who was also depressed at the time, took his own life. This terrified me. I feared that my dad would do the same; however, it pushed him to get as much help as he could to get better. It’s been about seven years and my dad is once again the fun, food- loving, hard working man I have always known him as. Seeing him suffer like that broke my heart and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

My dad takes medication every day to ensure he never gets back to that point. He has warned me about the signs of depression so that if I ever feel the way he did, I can seek help of my own. Although losing my uncle to suicide (a preventable death brought on by a mental illness) and watching the same illness destroy my dad, I’m relieved in an odd way that I was able to experience its effects. I say this because I am able to see passed the stigmas attached to mental health and educate others to do the same. 

In my poetry class, I wrote a paper about Anne Sexton’s poem Her Kind. In this poem, the speaker explains how she can identify with different kinds of women, for she has been like them. One of these kinds of women are women with mental illnesses:

The speaker is saying “a woman like that is not a woman, quite” shows the negative stigma attached to women suffering from mental illnesses. Take the example of Andrea Yates; she was convicted of drowning her five children in 2001. Her conviction was later overturned to reveal she suffered from postpartum depression. People attacked Yates because they could not understand how a mother could kill her own children. These people do not realize the damaging effects a mental illness could have on a person. Untreated mental illnesses like Yates’ lead to unfortunate circumstances, whether it be murder, serious injury/permanent damage, all the way to suicide.

It really says a lot that Sexton wrote this poem almost 60 years ago and that we STILL are stigmatizing mental illnesses.

We need to start taking mental health issues more seriously.

We need to help others help themselves.

The pain of losing someone to suicide is unbearable. The horrors of witnessing a loved one be torn apart by a mental illness will never go away; but these memories make it easier to help educate others about removing the stigmas attached to these illnesses. Hopefully it doesn’t take us another 60 years.