End the Stigma: Help Save Lives

CONTENT WARNING: The following article refers to mental health conditions and experiences. If this article triggers or upsets you in anyway, please stop reading immediately. If you or anyone you know is struggling, contact Crisis Canada at 1.833.456.4566 or send a text to 45645.

 

So many people today do not understand the increased prevalence rate of mental illness. According to CAMH, 1 in 5 people will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. So why is it that the stigma around the topic has actually increased? Media has increasingly covered mental health and its effects. Unfortunately, the media often only takes the mental health stories of celebrities and finds a way to glamorize them. On average, adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014 - yet these are not the things you hear in the news.

 

Last year, multiple buzzworthy names were mentioned on media platforms with the headline “opens up about mental health.” Specifically, model Bella Hadid opened up about her struggle with anxiety in an interview with People Magazine. “Believe me, I get it and I understand it,” she admits. “I was totally there. My sister Gigi Hadid is very bubbly and very out there, and I was always very reserved. I would literally start crying and shaking if I had to do interviews at red carpet events. It was really nerve-racking and it’s scary, and it’s not only you.” In the show Making a Model With Yolanda Hadid shows Bella Hadid speaking out for the first time about her understanding and living with anxiety, and helping aspiring model Mackenzie Rooney cope with her own mental health. Mackenzie is then seen saying “When Bella was telling us that she suffers from anxiety, I immediately felt a connection to her,” she says. “It just brought more hope. If she can do it, I hopefully can do it, too.” To check out the full clip click here!

 

Mackenzie’s reaction provides a clear example that in today’s society, people are heavily influenced by their role models who often times take the face of an actor, model or musician. Yet, when these celebrities speak out about their mental health, it seems to be applauded and is awarded as an achievement. Why is this not the same treatment given to “normal people” when they speak out about their mental health conditions?

 

Mental illness does not discriminate. Males are just as likely to suffer from a mental illness as a female. Another buzzworthy name that was headlining news earlier in 2018 is James Franco. Soon after overcoming multiple addictions as a 17 year old, Franco turned to acting, which he revealed to have also become an addiction. “I really threw myself into it, and that became everything, to the point where I didn’t even socialize,” he explained to OUT magazine. “And then after, like, 10 years of that, at age 27, I realized, ‘Man, I’m so depressed. On the surface my life seems pretty good—I have a career and everything— but I feel isolated and lonely.’”

 

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Photo by Kelly Lee Barrett

 

James Franco’s story goes to show that even though someone’s life may seem glamorous and perfect, it does not mean they are not battling with their own mind. Don’t always take things at face value, because you don’t always know what the other person is choosing not to show you.  

 

The escalating suicide rates and the rise of people suffering from mental illnesses call on each of us to pay closer attention to how the people we love and know are coping with life. Clearly, just because someone's life appears to be good on the outside, it doesn't mean all is well in their moments beyond the public eye. While we may not all suffer from mental illness, we each have a role to play in ensuring that those who do suffer feel less afraid to reach out and get the support they need in the moments when they need it most.  If people felt as comfortable talking about their PTSD, bipolar disorder or anxiety as they did talking about their colds or coughs, it would markedly reduce the suffering of those with mental illness and the ability of those around them to support them.

 

Photo via Social Problems

 

There are many ways we can help to remove the social stigma and make it easier for people not to self-stigmatize themselves. Talk openly about your own experience of mental illness, or that of your family. If you sense someone around you may be struggling, have the courage to ask them how they're doing. Put yourself in their shoes and try not to judge, but instead extend the compassion that they need. If you are struggling yourself, I can only encourage you to reach out and to confide your struggle to a medical professional or someone you trust.

 

Photo via Crisis Services Canada

 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with a mental illness or is presenting signs of deteriorating mental health, don’t be afraid to call help. Please contact Crisis Service Canada by phone at 1.833.456.4566 or send a text to 45645.