Mental Illness: Breaking the Stigma

Yesterday I was getting my groceries wrung up by a young man who seemed to be coughing a great deal.  He was using the “vampire” method to keep me away from his cough as much as possible, but immunosuppressed me was a bit uncomfortable.

“Bad cold you got there,” I remarked.  “Yes, and I can’t take any cold medicine for it because I am Bipolar.”  I was shocked, in a pleasant sort of way, that he would be that forthcoming with me, a stranger.  I told him that my husband has A-typical Bipolar and that I too was being evaluated for it.

“Who isn’t bipolar these days?” I joked.  When I was done paying I praised him for being so open and willing to talk about his mental illness.

The thing is, the times that I have confided in someone that I have mental illness or that Tyler has anxiety and most likely OCD, I inevitably hear back from the other person, “I have anxiety too and I take Xanax for it” or “My husband has…” or “My child has…”

If so many of us have Mental Illnesses, why are so many of us still not talking about it, why are so many of us still so afraid to admit this?

The man with whom I conversed with yesterday was probably in his early 20’s. Perhaps his generation is comfortable talking about it, just as if it were a disease such as Diabetes or Arthritis, and…isn’t it?

I am liking the way things are heading.  How can you help?  By not being afraid to mention mental illness to people if it seems appropriate to the conversation.  Do an experiment and see if you get a “Me too” back, like I have.

The key to breaking the stigma of Mental Illness is to just keep talking, blogging, tweeting, communicating about it!

I hope you will join me in spreading the word and hope I have encouraged you to not be afraid any more.


Photo credit by VinothChandar.

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About mamasick

Emily Cullen is a pen-name. I suffer from chronic illnesses and diseases which include Bipolar Disorder, Asthma, Diabetes and Fibromyalgia. I had battled Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis but there is no longer evidence of me having these diseases and my Rheumatologist has declared them to be "burnt out" of my system. I am separated from my husband, “Grant”. Our son, “Tyler” was born in September of 2006 and suffers from tics and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and is delayed in fine and gross motor skills. In my blog I seek to let sick moms know that they are not the only ones going through this, and to educate people about what can happens when one becomes catastrophically ill. I also strive to break down stereotypes of what a “Welfare Mom” is like. Anything that I have gone through due to being sick, is written on the pages of Mama Sick.
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5 Responses to Mental Illness: Breaking the Stigma

  1. Caroline says:

    I agree. Let’s break the stigma one conversation at a time!

  2. Caroline says:

    BTW, I shared this on my Facebook.

  3. Andy says:

    Well said! It’s so true… the stigma is starting to wear off a little bit, especially in the younger generations. Here’s to seeing it gone in our lifetimes!

  4. chris says:

    hey caroline, I am doing a assignment on stigma in regards to youth mental health and I love your line” lets break the stigma on conversation at a time” and I’m wanting to print that phase on a t-shirt, can I use that line? thanks chris

  5. Wrd says:

    Rather predictably when Catherine Zeta Jones made her ilenlss public yesterday, people had the following to say:* What has she got to be depressed about? She’s rich isn’t she?* Why did she tell the press? What an attention seeker!* Why does this get such attention just because she’s a star? Happens all the time!* There’s nothing brave about admitting to a disease when your life is so full of material successSome may find these reactions irritating, frustrating or mean spirited, others may have an element of sympathy with them. For me, having read the decision to make this public was based on the fact she was papped outside the clinic and rumours were circulating about addictive behaviour that may have brought her there, I do think there’s an element of bravery. However rich this woman is, she has coped in the last year with her husband’s cancer and his son being sent to prison. I’m not sure all the money in the world would make this better. It has also emerged that CZJ has been affected by depression on and off for years. Lots of us are.For me, the only element of this I find frustrating is the fact that it still takes someone high profile like CZJ to speak up for people to understand more. There has been a lot of attention because of the nature of the ilenlss, who knows, if it was a physical one it may not have been so newsworthy.I hate the fact that when faced with news of someone’s ilenlss, people make value judgements based on their own prejudices of whether the sufferer deserves to be one! We all get ill so I wish people would quit their sniping. Just because people have the sort of wealth so many dream of, it doesn’t stop them feeling, hurt, love or loss. It doesn’t stop compassion and it most certainly isn’t a cure for a medical condition.

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