I have been writing a blog about mental health illness for over three years, with a primary emphasis on the stigma that is attached to having a mental illness, measures that can be taken in order to help ourselves get past the stigma and get help, and encouraging those suffering from mental illness to acknowledge their situation. I have chosen this direction because the stigma is real and it is pervasive. The stigma is slowly receding with the advent of well-known people speaking up about their own challenges with mental illness, but we do have a long way to go and I will continue to write and promote mental well-being.
My words have reached people in far away places, not only throughout the United States, where I reside, but as far away as Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, England, Iran, and India. Hopefully, these people have found some support from reading the blogs, but I feel a bit uncomfortable standing on a soapbox and shouting that we should all talk about our mental health challenges and not be shy or embarrassed about telling our stories. I am acknowledging that I am still affected by this stigma of having a mental health illness. At times, I find myself silent when it comes to talking about my own situation in public. I wonder how people will respond to me after I divulge my secret? On the computer, protected by cyberspace, I speak out. But in person, I always question if I really want to mention that I have an anxiety disorder. More often than not, I do speak up about this challenge with which I have struggled , and I am able to speak out proactively, but I am still a bit gun-shy about the subject. I can only imagine what a challenge it must be for other people with a mental illness who are not writing about this topic to openly speak up.
I read an article that appeared in the September 2019 edition of Men’s Health magazine written by a man who is studying to become a psychiatrist. He states that during his interview for his residency, he was asked why he really wanted to become a psychiatrist. He danced all around the answer, but never admitted to his interviewer that he had battled depression and knew what it was like from the other side. What he wanted to say was, “ I have been depressed, and I have recovered. And my experience gave me an empathetic understanding of the patients we’re commonly devoted to.” He goes on to say that stating that fact would have been his most relevant qualification, not the rather impressive resume of past education. He also acknowledged that making that statement would have been his “greatest achievement.” The article ended with these words, “Every time you talk about depression, you erode the stigma – yours and everyone else’s.”