As anyone with a mental illness of any kind will understand, stigma comes from so many places. Mostly expected places. Parents who “don’t know what you have to be depressed about”, friends who say, “It’s fine, calm down”, or employers that don’t see why a panic attack gives you the right to stay at home that day. It can be difficult for someone who doesn’t know, to understand. Even we understand this, and are working to educate them to erase that stigma. But the most unexpected source of stigma is from the people who either have or have had a mental illness.
An unexpected source of stigma
In my personal experience, I’ve had mental health illnesses for 8 years now, and I have had conversations with friends who I thought would support me. Maybe give me advice because they’ve been through it. But on several occasions, I’ve found them almost trying to brush me off because they “had it worse” or “their reason for it was more valid”.
It honestly shocks me. Anyone with a mental illness should know better than anyone else how they are feeling and how crucial the support of our peers is to stay in touch with society and take the important steps to ask for help. Demeaning their causes in a “that’s not good enough, try harder” attitude will only cause more damage and result in someone sinking further into isolation. It reminds me of a familiar argument at school of who has to get up the earliest in the morning. Who cares? We’re all tired and want to go home.
Everyone’s experience is subjective
Everyone’s experience with mental illness is subjective to their own experiences or their perception of their experiences. A broken heart or losing a loved one can result in that same familiar blackness that some of know so well. The reason doesn’t matter. Only the support and the recovery that is so desperately needed from both parties, even from each other.
It’s never a competition. There is no prize. All that is achieved is pushing someone further away from the help they needed when they asked for it. Take the time. Think how you felt/feel. Offer what advice you can. Or just be there for each other, and maybe work together to find a way to recovery.
The internal stigma needs to be reduced. It’s the last place you’d expect to see it and is just as important to beat as stigma from anywhere else.