Mental Illness Stigma or Mental Health Recovery

Front, left, and center, the treatment junkies and their pill pushers like to give it us. Advertisements for mental illness are gaining ground and support by leaps and bounds. Here’s one from the land down under as the Sydney Herald Gazette reports Hiding your mental illness only increases the stigma.

Automatically I’m looking around. Mental illness? Who, me?

The propensity of people to distance themselves from the mentally ill in a bid not to be assumed “crazy” or “insane” can be quite dangerous. Studies have shown that much of the social stigma felt by people living with mental illness is actually created by their fellow sufferers. Every patient who shirks their diagnosis with the defensive comment “but I’m not a crazy person” implies that they are above or beyond the mental instability of others in similar emotional states.

Diagnosis = responsibility? I don’t think so.

We have another word vital to treatment efforts and that word is recovery. When a person has recovered from a serious mental illness, a person has moved beyond the condition that may have held that person back. This is to say that what we call wits, sense, or reason, if lost, can be restored.

I personally think that it is more reasonable to break out of, than it is to break into, a mental hospital. Those are my thoughts, but it seems to be a lesson that some of us never completely grasp.

There is a missed opportunity here – every time a depressed and anxious person denies being like all the other depressed and anxious people, a tiny chance for acceptance and compassion is extinguished. The often awkward treatment of mental illness in the workplace, schools and homes is never going to improve if people experiencing mental illness themselves are sabotaging the move for greater social understanding from within.


The problem here is that when you saddle a person with a diagnosis you transform an adjective into a noun. The people who haven’t been unhappy or anxious, etc., I don’t know, but this is not because they’re necessarily chronically depressed or anxiety ridden, it’s because they’re human beings. The same people can be ecstatic or calm. This is as true of people who are called depressed and anxious, at one time or another, as it is of everybody else. Putting a diagnostic tag between yourself and other people doesn’t make you somebody special.

We know you can ‘have’ a ‘mental illness‘. Is it possible for you to lose your mental illness? Just for a little while even, and then, maybe for a little while longer. Take a few baby steps, when first starting out, if need be, but there is a big world out there just beyond the parenthetical world of treatment, and it’s not waiting for you.

I know it takes some people longer than it does others, but sooner or later, you get over it. You get over it, or you bear your stigmata for life that is.