CONTENT WARNING: This article talks about mental health conditions and honest experiences regarding mental illness. If this article could possibly trigger you, please stop reading immediately and seek the help of a healthcare professional if needed.
When I was growing up, mental health wasn’t a topic that was often discussed. Whenever it did come up, it was considered a sort of taboo subject by many. Fortunately, things have somewhat changed over the past few years. There have been multiple efforts to raise awareness and start discussions surrounding mental health. However, there still remains a stigma behind mental health conditions. People with mental illnesses can be perceived as dangerous, hard to talk to, weak or lazy. Some people even think that mental illness is just an excuse for laziness and is an over-exaggeration. These assumptions can exist in the workplace, in school and even amongst your peers and family members.
For most of my life, I have struggled with mental health disorders. As a kid, I often felt lost and helpless about my thoughts and feelings with no one to talk to and no resources available. I grew up at a time and place wherein mental health wasn’t widely discussed. People tended to avoid the subject or dismiss it as an insignificant issue. As a result, I lived in fear of speaking out and internalized my thoughts and emotions. Today, many people continue to do ignore and stigmatize topics regarding mental health. People can so easily brush off the emotions of another, discriminate against a person with mental disabilities, or frown upon coping mechanisms such as therapy and medication.
Photo via Verne Ho
If you are someone with a mental illness, these things can take a toll on you. It can take an awful lot of strength and courage for someone to share and admit their illness. It takes even more strength to talk to someone about it and seek help. Stigmatizing or dismissing someone’s condition can have mild to severe repercussions for that person. It can make a person feel feeble, isolated and beyond help. It can also hinder or interfere with someone’s efforts to seek help and get better. Instead of getting the help that they need, they could bottle up their emotions and live in fear of judgment and rejection.
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So from someone who experiences these things, what do I wish for others to know about people with mental health disabilities? What can someone who might not understand do? Often, the simplest yet highly appreciated thing to do is just to listen. Lend your time and attention when someone opens up to you. Don’t underestimate the importance of human presence and interaction to someone who needs it when they feel alone. Offer your support (or a medical professional’s), but be mindful of their boundaries and ask for consent. Ask the person what you can do to help them in their situation.
If you’d like to help even further, educate yourself about the basics. People often have misconceptions about mental disabilities based on a lack of or wrong information, which can lead to incorrect assumptions and discrimination. Read up on the issue or watch videos on coping techniques to better understand what people with disabilities may be going through. Learning more about the issue will better equip you on how to interact with someone who may be battling a mental illness.
Photo by Zun Zun
Mental illness is a disease, just like those of the physical nature. It can affect anyone and can often go unnoticed. Raising awareness and having healthy discussions about mental health issues are important for everybody to participate in. The more people are educated about it, the less misconceptions there are about it. Proper education and conversations on mental health can help end the stigma about mental illness.
Distress Centres Toronto
Distress Line: 416-408-4357
Survivor Support Program: 416-595-1716
LGBTQ Youth Line
Toll Free Line: 1-800-268-9688
Phone: 416-962-2232 ext. 228 in the GTA
Phone: 1-866-925-5454 or through 211 then ask to Good2Talk