Stop the Stigma

I was discussing mental illness this morning with a dear friend of mine. She too has suffered for a long time–much longer, and much harder than I have. Now that we’ve found each other, we know each other’s moods and trigger points. While we don’t live in the same city, we try to care for each other as best we can.

We do disagree sometimes, however, and this morning was one of those times. Today is Self Injury Awareness Day (SIAD). In a nation of wacky celebrations like Chocolate Chip Cookie Day or Root Beer Float Day–actual awareness days can sometimes get lost in the mix. When I mentioned to her that today was SIAD, she asked me if I thought days like today cheapened the struggle. That sparked a lively debate. Her opinions are her own, so I’m not going to share them here. But the conversation did really make me think about my own reasons for participating in days like today, and writing so ferociously about mental illness.

While I now know that I have been living with mental illness for many years, my diagnosis is only a year old. Since that time, I have really ramped up my study in psychology. What was a mild interest has now become a serious passion. I am extremely invested in learning as much as I can about psychology, the brain, and everything mental health related. There’s a reason you have seen such an uptick in nonfiction on this blog!

Through my research, I’ve found a wonderfully welcoming mental health community online. Social media has brought together so many different people to form a unique kind of group therapy. On just about any platform, you can find forums and outlets for depression, anxiety, BPD, eating disorders, self-harm, the list goes on and on. Youtubers like Kati Morton provide informative videos, journal prompts, and worksheets to help fill in the gaps between actual therapy. Bloggers (Like me! But also Allie Brosh and Jenny Lawson) write about their own experiences–how they suffered, got help, their coping mechanisms, good days, bad days.

Some of this is general, some of it gets really personal–but for me, it is all extremely helpful. The more conversation, the better.

Today is Self Injury Awareness Day. This is not an issue I deal with personally, but I know people who do. And after reading Lady Injury recently, I grasp much more fully how terrifyingly dangerous it can be. I encourage you to pay attention to the discussions happening on social media today. If you are able, participate. Be careful though, and take care of yourself. If you don’t understand what is happening yet, listen, ask questions.

Today, and other days like today, are about awareness and education. Today is every single one of us joining hands and saying “Hello, I am here for you. I love you. Do you need help?” AND ALSO “I am sick. I need help. Here is what is happening.” AND ALSO “I love you. I want to know more. Help me understand so I can help.”

Help us reduce the stigma on mental illness. The more we share our stories, the more people can learn and understand. The more people who learn and understand, the better chance we have of improved mental health care and treatment. With less stigma, we will also have more people asking for help when they need it, as there will be less shame placed on those who are sick. We need real conversations happening around dinner tables and in classrooms and between girlfriends at lunch and in bars between bros.


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