Hi, my name is Madi, and I have cancer. I don’t, I lied, and it’s wrong of me to use a serious and fatal illness to provoke sympathy from you. So why is it so acceptable to do with mental illnesses?
Mental Illness awareness day is tomorrow (Monday 10th), in honour of it, I thought I’d do some educating and speak my opinion on the controversy that is mental illnesses.
Firstly, by telling someone that a mental illness is “just in your head” is the same as telling someone with asthma “its juts in your lungs”. There is a physical difference in the brain between someone who suffers a mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety and someone who does not . Just the same as there is a physical difference in the body of someone who suffers from dwarfism and someone who does not. Mental illnesses are real, valid and by definition, in your head.
An increasing amount of young people suffer from mental illnesses each year, and mental illnesses don’t discriminate, so everyone is at risk, not just white females. In fact, one in four people are diagnosed with a mental illness and 20% of children aged 13-18 live with a mental health condition. Mental illnesses are triggered by traumatic events, even though they may not seem that traumatic to everyone else, or even yourself. Young people especially are at risk with the high rate of child abuse and the added stress of school and other social events. Worst of all, the government in developed countries such as the USA and the UK are cutting funds to therapists and psychology studies, and less developed countries don’t even have access to any type of psychological help, to further delay the little progress being made.
Most people in their lifetimes have had the thought- “am I mentally stable?”, and that’s okay. Thanks to the internet we can research symptoms for these illnesses and try to debunk whether we have any mental illnesses or not. Unfortunately, some symptoms are quite broad, and we are left wondering whether or not it applies to us. At this point, if you seriously think you may be suffering from a mental illness, please see a therapist, be it online of not, or contact a free helpline. Your friends are not your therapists. They possibly have their own problems and it’s very stressful to try and deal with them and someone else’s issues. There’s a difference between being empathetic and being a therapist, do not expect your friends to fix your troubles. By all means talk openly to them about anything that’s bothering you, just try to keep the topics not too heavy.
For anyone with friends/ relatives with mental illnesses, please remember, you cannot love their illness away. It’s hard, but the best you can do is be there for them.
Ableism is discrimination in favour of able-bodied or minded people. Using words such as “depressed” and “bipolar” as adjectives (“I’m feeling so bipolar today”, “you’re so OCD”) when you don’t suffer from the illness is a type of ableism. As well as using words such as cr*zy and p*ycho or p*ychotic to describe people with a mental illness or as an insult, this is because those words were once used as derogatory terms towards mentally ill people, the same as n*gger was a derogatory term used toward people of colour. That means wearing t-shirts with slogans such as “cute but p*ycho” implies you wish to be able to tell people you have a mental illness without suffering the pain and trauma that comes with it. Thus bringing us back to the main point of this article. It’s not okay t0 use mental illnesses, or any illness to gain sympathy when you don’t experience it.