Mental health is a topic that many people in society think they know so much about when in reality they know too little. Ignorance is the most devastating illness that plagues our society. The only cure is knowledge, so let me save you a co-pay and share the truth about people with a mental illness.
1. We Are Not Violent.
Even though facts and stats say the opposite, the “People with a mental illness are violent” myth never seems to go away despite the information provided. Yes, there have been individuals with a mental illness who have committed a violent act, but that does not represent the whole, and other factors contribute to a person’s violent behavior outside of mental illness. People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violent acts that occur in society. The world isn’t flat, dinosaurs once roamed the earth, and people with a mental illness are not violent. These are the facts, with evidence to back it up.
2. We Can Contribute to Society.
When you live with a mental illness, you are labeled as someone with a “disability.” The problem is that society only looks at the dis and not the ability part of the word. There are many people with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety that are successful, however, the majority of them have not publicly revealed their mental illness due to stigma. When you live with bipolar disorder, you have a unique perspective on the world which allows us to contribute in ways that others cannot. However, the stigma of mental illness prevents people from acknowledging our capabilities. When society stops focusing on what we cannot do and focuses on what we can do, people with a mental illness will be able to contribute to society uniquely.
3. We Are Empathetic.
Many people who live with a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, are incredibly empathetic. We cannot even watch a commercial about starving children without blaming ourselves for this injustice and being consumed by our emotions. When I meet people, I can sense their feelings and take on pain of other individuals. This is why it remarkably concerns me that those of us with a mental illness are portrayed as monsters. When I went to the mental hospital, I thought I would be greeted by these “monsters,” but instead I was greeted by empathetic angels. When I walked in, I was immediately hugged by a 50-year-old woman living with schizophrenia who had been homeless for ten years. She cradled me like I was her daughter and said, “My dear, you are going to be okay. I can feel your pain, and we love you.” If you consider her to be a monster, then you are insane, not me.
4. We Are Suppressed By Stigma.
We are silently suppressed by stigma. Stigma prevents people living with a mental illness from getting jobs, building relationships and living an authentic life, which is a good life. The worst part is the majority of the information you hear regarding mental illness is fabricated and false. It keeps people from seeing what those of us living with a mental illness have to offer. Every day people die at the hands of stigma. It is the reason why we are so misunderstood, and silenced as a community.
5. We Are Not What You See in the Media.
Ever since I published my blog and opened up about living with bipolar 2 disorder the most common thing said to me is, “You don’t look bipolar!” to which I respond, “What does bipolar look like?” No, we do not look like the deranged individuals you see in the media. The negative portrayal of mental illness in the media, both in imagery and on the screen, only increases stigma. The Be Vocal Collection, created by Getty Images, Demi Lovato, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and other mental health organizations, is a library of images that portray a realistic image of mental health. It is an initiative that fights against these unrealistic images that persuade the general public to have a negative perception of people with a mental illness.
6. We Are Individuals.
We are your neighbors, teachers, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, best friends, lovers and people who are involved in your everyday life. We are individuals who live with a condition similar to someone who lives with diabetes. Our mental illness is a part of us, but it does not define us as an individual. We are some of the most gravitating and vibrant individuals who have so much to offer this world.
This is our mind. This is our truth.
Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
For more mental health content, follow me @hannahdblum