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Mental Health Stigma – Does It Add Up?

By Guest Blogger Graham Shiels

To answer my own question…No it doesn’t add up!

130792The more I think about the stigma surrounding mental health, the more absurd it appears to be. When I was first diagnosed with depression, I tried to rationalize it at some point as, OK, if I had a broken arm I would have it in a cast to heal, so these tablets will help me heal my brain. No biggie. But it was a biggie, although I tried to rationalize it in that way, I was very aware of how other people might perceive me. My thought process was I might be seen as, weak or unstable and therefore untrustworthy, also feared by others due to stereotypes in the media.

There are numerous films where stereotypes of mental illness come from, that ingrain themselves in our minds as to how people with a mental illness are supposed to behave. I remember when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder; I was horrified, because I thought Bipolar was another word for Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia scared me, because any films I’d seen featuring extreme cases of Schizophrenia. However soon learned bipolar was a new term for manic depression which I understood more about. It wasn’t until much later I began to understand Schizophrenia was not what I had confined to the stereotypes I had seen in the movies either.

It doesn’t make sense to me that an illness of the brain has so much negative stigma around to it. Whereas an illness to the body is well, for lack of a better word, ‘normal’ and accepted. For me, it can only be explained through fear of the unknown.

782a58f64d397effa32d11013b443b95So how can we get rid of the negative stigma? We talk about it more; we educate people about what it’s like to suffer from the various mental illnesses out there. We show people it’s not to be feared, though never something to be ignored.

BBC Three is currently airing a series of programs highlighting mental illness, focusing on those who have them and how they cope. I’ve posted most of these documentaries on my blog The Bipolar Place. If you search for BBC Three on my blog you should find the various episodes. They’re a great example of how more awareness is being shone on the whole mental illness debate.

My name is Graham and This is Where I Stand.

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