Those who live with mental illness are not all the same. They are not to be lumped into one group or to be labeled. Yes, they all have characteristics and diagnoses that are alike, but they don’t exhibit those characteristics in the same ways as another person might. They will display specific symptoms individually. Not all symptoms that are listed under a particular illness will even apply to every individual with that certain condition. Some may display more severe symptoms and conditions, whereas others may only display some or a less severe form of the illness. Due to each person displaying individualistic symptoms and characteristics, it makes diagnosing and finding a successful treatment plan extremely difficult.
What comes to mind when you hear that someone has a mental illness? Is a little part of you afraid or cautious? Does part of you automatically assume they’re “crazy” and unstable? Or maybe you feel shocked because they don’t appear to fit society’s image of a person who lives with a mental illness. They look and act just like everyone else. Well, that’s because they are like everyone else. They are human who just happen to live with different obstacles than others might. Some people live with food allergies and can’t eat certain foods, while some are diabetic and have to closely monitor their blood sugar. Those who live with a mental illness aren’t much different. They may have to monitor their moods, take medications, alter their eating habits, and even their stress levels to avoid having a relapse.
Stigma is Still a Huge Issue
Negative reactions and judgments about mental illness are most certainly common when coming from people who aren’t familiar with mental health. This is why it is ultimately crucial to expand the education and awareness regarding mental illness.
Due to the stigma, some who live with a mental illness often refuse to share, speak openly about their illness. They might even fear to seek treatment that could save their lives, but choose not to due to what others may think and feel about them. They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, and weaker than others for having to seek professional help.
It is sad to think that so many will suffer each year out of fear of getting the appropriate help they need. We, as a society, need to work on making it okay and be supportive of those who may need mental health treatment. Denial of the existence of mental health and lack of empathy will not make these illnesses disappear. It may only make matters worse.
What Can We Do?
So, the next time you hear or say “He/she is bipolar,” know that it is incorrect. He or she lives with bipolar is the more proper way of putting it because if a person has diabetes or cancer, you wouldn’t say this person is diabetes or cancer. It is a condition that they happen to live with which involves treatment. The same rules apply for those who live with mental illness too. We must be mindful of how we view and talk about mental illness if we want to instill change.
Mental illness is not as scary as it appears in the media. Just because a person who is said to have bipolar (or another mental illness) did a terrible thing that gets displayed nationally over the news doesn’t mean that everyone who lives with that illness will end up doing the same thing.
People who live with mental illness are individuals and it will affect each one of them in different, unique ways.