LET'S BE REAL: The (Unspoken) Stigma Around Mental Illness
by Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller is a Northumberland County Ontario educator, artist and writer. Visit her website at dawnmillerwriter.com
"No one would avoid getting help if they broke their arm. Or got cancer. No one would anticipate being judged it they were diabetic or had a brain tumor. Somehow, our society puts mental health in a category all on its own, as if the brain is somehow not connected to the body."
I am not a mental health professional. But I am someone who has dealt with mental illness, and I know the devastating impact it can have on work, school, and relationships. I come from a long line of family members who have dealt with depression and yet, as I write this, I experience a niggling feeling that I might be judged by people who read this article.
What’s ironic, when we talk about the stigma of mental illness and the fear people have about disclosing such personal information, is that mental illness is actually pretty common. Statistics Canada reports:
In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem
By the age of 40, 1 in 2 Canadians have—or had—a mental illness.
Those are astounding statistics, and the numbers only reflect those with a reported mental health problem. Half of us will experience some form of mental illness by the age of 40, and all of us struggle at times with our mental health - for example, after a traumatic event or a death in the family. Yet mental illness continues to be a topic shrouded in fear of judgement, misunderstanding, and discrimination.
What this means is that there are A LOT of people out there who are suffering or will suffer in silence. People who internalize the stigma will avoid telling anyone about their struggles and thus avoid getting the help they need due to a fear of rejection, judgement, and ridicule.
No one would avoid getting help if they broke their arm. Or got cancer. No one would anticipate being judged it they were diabetic or had a brain tumor. Somehow, our society puts mental health in a category all on its own, as if the brain is somehow not connected to the body.
The results of hiding mental health issues are catastrophic to people’s individual lives, their families, their productivity at school or at work. Countless people suffer needlessly as they avoid sharing their struggles.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing mental health issues, perhaps the most important thing you need to realize is this: you are not alone. You are not weak. Or flawed. Or less than others. You are dealing with a health issue, and you deserve to get the help you need.
It’s time to stop the stigma.
We invite you to read "Navigating the System", by our Emotional Health Editor, Maureen Pollard. For additional resources & supports go to: