How Being Offered a Cup of Tea Launched My Community Service Career


When I was admitted to hospital in the middle of the night, my life was in tatters. My fragile mind had shattered. I was lost and alone in a strange environment, not knowing what was happening to me, when a fellow patient offered me a cup of tea. That cup of tea was my life raft, helping to keep me afloat in a raging sea of fear and emotions. I knew then I wasn’t alone and there were other people who understood what I was going through.

While in hospital I took to writing a book I had started, using a beat up old laptop the staff kept in the linen cupboard for safekeeping.

My trips to and from the linen cupboard eventually aroused my fellow patients’ curiosity. I explained my laptop was there and that I was using it to write a book.

As the weeks went by I was asked more and more about my book, until eventually I was persuaded to read a chapter to them. I deliberately picked a humorous chapter and I can honestly say there is nothing more rewarding than have a ward full of people with depression laughing at something I had written.

The end of my stay in hospital coincided with the completion of my book. It had become a kind of therapy to me.

Buoyed by the support I had received from my peers in hospital, I nervously sent my manuscript to a publisher and was amazed to get a publishing contract by return post.

I then went on to have a successful book launch in Nottingham Waterstones and a full page article about me and my book in the Nottingham Evening Post.

This made me want to give something back and I started volunteering for Rethink mental health charity. As part of this organization, I campaigned at the political party conferences and got to meet Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary. As a result of this, I had a full page article in The Guardian newspaper about people power and mental health. There was a very fetching picture of me, sporting a Mad Hatter’s outfit, standing next to Boris Johnson.

Rethink then told me about a trial leadership program Radar (now Disability Rights UK) was running. At that time I didn’t know mental health could be classified as a disability. I also lacked the confidence to apply, thinking there must be far better leadership candidates than me. Despite this, I was persuaded to apply and was amazed to get accepted to the program.

The experience turned out to be transformational, for as much as I got out of the workshops and coaching, it was other people in the course who inspired me most. Although we came from a variety of different backgrounds and health conditions, we were all peers who overcame the odds every single day. It was this peer support and the amazing things people had done or were going to do, that were the keys to the success of the program.

After graduating from the leadership program, I felt inspired to do more to help other people like me and started volunteering for Radar. Through Radar, I took part in their MP Dialogue Scheme, in which you contact your Member of Parliament (MP) to discuss disability issues. I felt nervous about this. Even though I had spoken to Boris Johnson, I was, after all, disguised as a Mad Hatter at the time.

I arranged to meet my MP, who I thought must eat policies for lunch and quite possibly constituents too. He turned out to be a regular guy, just like any member of the public and he assured me he didn’t know everything. He explained he had a team to brief him on each new area in which he got involved. We had a good meeting, learning a lot from each other and setting plans in place to improve disabled access in the area.

On completion of the MP Dialogue Scheme, a reception was held in Parliament. I was invited along and also asked if I would like to speak about my experiences of the scheme. At this point I had done a number of things that had tested my self-confidence to the limit. This, however, was way out of my comfort zone! I politely suggested perhaps there was someone better suited to the task then me. I don’t know how they did it or why I agreed, but eventually I was persuaded to speak in Parliament.

On the day, I was a bag of nerves, not helped by the fact the room was packed to the rafters with Lords, Ladies, Baronesses, members of Parliament and OBEs (Officers of the Order of the British Empire) – to name but a few – with standing room only. In that room, where so much of history had been made, I nervously got up on the lectern and though Oh sh*t. I then went on to speak for about 10 minutes, at the end of which you could hear a pin drop, followed by the biggest round of applause I had ever heard. To this day, I have no idea what I talked about.

It was not long afterwards that Radar received funding for a full-blown leadership program and I was asked if I would like to apply for the Leadership Empowerment Manager role. After interviewing, I was amazed when I got a call the next day to say I had gotten the job! It turned out to be the best job I have ever had with some amazing success stories.

It wasn’t the high profile successes that meant the most to me, however. It was the people who, at the start of the program, had the stuffing knocked out of them throughout life. By the end of the program, they were standing in front of a hundred people saying what a difference the program had made to them and how they were now going to pursue goals they would never previously have dreamed of.

I am telling this story because it is not a story about me. It is a story about other people – people who were there for me at my time of need. It if wasn’t for that cup of tea, none of this may have happened. That cup of tea was a cup of hope, in which peer support was fundamental in changing my life for better and making me who I am today. It, in turn, has empowered me to offer the cup of hope to other people.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via KariHoglund.


Workouts I Do When Don't Want to Leave My Room


Anyone can rattle off a list of reasons why he or she couldn’t make it to the gym. It was too crowded, there were more important things to do that day, traffic was out of control, etc. But for many people with disability, these reasons may be a little more complicated. Blinking fluorescent lights, blaring high-energy music, and noisy workout machines may keep someone prone to sensory overload from working out. A huge room full of strangers and mirrors is probably the last place someone with social anxiety or body dysmorphia wants to be. If you have depression, getting out of bed in the morning may already feel like you’re bench pressing twice your weight.

When I was recovering from my eating disorder, I felt like the scrawniest person in the workout room. I could barely lift 10 pounds and was forced to look at my reflection wherever I went. I was surrounded by talk of weight gain supplements, calories, and carbo loading; I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone there was watching me fail. I felt alienated and out of place in the gym, and I’m sure many others with disability have felt the same way.

Nowadays, I’ve found working out can boost my self-esteem and stave off depressive episodes, and there’s a great volume of research to support these facts. But one thing that hasn’t changed is my great reluctance to leave my room and actually go to the gym. So, over the years as a yoga instructor and mentally ill human being, I’ve curated a set of workouts I can do with minimal equipment in my own room.

Editor’s note: Please consult a physician before starting or stopping an exercise regimen.

What You’ll Need:

A yoga mat. You may not need one if you have carpeting, but if you have hard floors, the extra cushioning from a yoga mat is really helpful. Plus, you’re less likely to slip because of the increased traction you can get on a mat. Here are some reliable and inexpensive ones you can get delivered right to your door.

Weights. Completely optional but great for upping the intensity of a variety of different workouts. Owning a few pairs of weights can always come in handy if you exercise at home a lot.

Clothing you can move around it. If you’re doing stretches, you’re going to want clothing that can stretch as much as you can. For yoga poses, especially inversions, tight-fitting clothes like tank tops or shorts are best so your clothes don’t fly into your face every time you downward dog.

The Moves:

Sun Salutation. A classic yoga flow. It’s a popular morning routine to warm up all the important muscles in your body like your hamstrings, shoulders, and your core. If you feel like you want more, you can up the intensity with some toning moves. Start in downward dog and bring your right leg into the air behind you. Then curl your leg in so your knee can just brush against nose. Lift your leg up behind you again and curl it in so your knee touches your right elbow. After you’ve brought your leg behind you again, curl it in one last time and twist your torso so your knee meets your other elbow. Doing this on both sides can strengthen your core and improve balance. See how long you can hold each leg touch!

(Improvised) Weight Lifting. If you’re not ready to splurge on a set of free weights, here are some DIY weights that work for arm exercises like triceps extensions and reverse flies: If you have some empty plastic water bottles or milk jugs, try filling them with water or sand. You can also do bicep curls or deadlifts with your groceries (if you’re careful not to drop them all over the floor). If full grocery bags are too inconvenient for you, you can use cans or beer bottles as weights as well. Textbooks and dictionaries make great weights too. Even just holding a large book above your head for a minute is an arm workout! I’ve also seen people fill long socks with dry beans and tie them around their arms and legs to make wrist and ankle weights. You may not want to eat the beans after they’ve been in an old sock, though.

Wall Sits. I love wall sits. You can do them pretty much anywhere and they work out your core, glutes, and thighs. I try to hold them as long as I can, but 30 seconds to a minute is a good place to start if you’ve never done them before. Just stand about a foot from the wall and sit down into a position where your back touches the wall and your thigh and calf make a 90-degree angle with your knee. To keep your back protected, try to press your spine to the wall as you sit. The best part about this pose is you can check your phone or read the newspaper while you’re in it. If you get really good at this one and want a challenge, try lifting one leg up at a time so it becomes parallel with the ground. Holding this is killer, so only try this if you’ve gotten a regular wall sit down.

LungesThey’re a tried-and-true workout classic. The key to good lunges is good technique, taking special care of your knees. By stepping further forward, you can keep your bent leg at a 90-degree angle, which will keep your knee from getting injured by bending too much. Make sure to step forward and not to the side, keeping your legs shoulder-width apart if you can. For harder lunges, you can step backwards or do bicep curls with weights as you lunge, bringing them in towards your chest as you step.

Squats. Squats are a great way to ensure you’re extremely sore the morning after you work out (remember to stretch!). There’s a million ways you can do squats incorrectly, however, so make sure you’re being careful with your knees and your back. You want your butt to come below your knees but not all the way down, since that makes the move a lot easier than it should be. Your back should be as straight as possible when you’re squatting, with your knees right above your toes when bent. For added difficulty, try holding a weight against your chest as you squat. You can use a book or a bag of flour as a DIY alternative.

Arm Circles. When I’m doing arm circles, I like to imagine my index finger is drawing circles of different circumferences in the air. I start with a circle the size of a pencil’s eraser, then move up to a coffee cup, then a dinner plate, then a beach ball, then an umbrella (or just as big as you can go). Then I reverse the direction of my circle and go from umbrella to eraser. This is one you can do while reading or watching a video, and it’s a great way to warm up your arms at the beginning of the day (though it is a significant amount of work depending on how many circles you do!). After arm circles, I like to bring my arm across the front of my chest and pull it in with the other to stretch out the muscles in my shoulders. You can also grasp your hands behind your back and stretch your chest, too.

PlankPlank is already a part of Sun Salutation, but it’s something that has a lot of potential for toning (and soreness). There’s a lot of variations you can do with plank, but it’s better to be able to do a classic plank with great technique than a difficult variation you’re not sure about. My tips for holding a plank are arm placement and a slight bend in the elbows. If your arms are too close together, you’re going to want to quit faster, so make sure they’re under your shoulders or an inch out. I also find engaging my core rather than just using my arms helps a lot, and if you’re feeling like you’re about to collapse, tucking your tailbone in so your hips point down a little more can keep you up for a few more seconds at least. It’s good to do plank with some frame of reference for how flat your back is, either a mirror or a friend, since an arched back or a curved spine can lead to problems in the future. Most importantly, if you feel like you need to drop down to your knees and build up to a traditional plank, do it. I started my plank on my knees and now I’m up to a side plank with a lifted leg, so just work on going slowly and carefully in the beginning. If you’re looking for a more active plank, try dropping down you’re your elbows one at a time (slowly!) and then bring yourself back up to a regular plank. I can usually only do about five of these since they’re so intense.

Sometimes it’s hard to just to motivate yourself to work out at all, which is a hurdle all on its own. But there’s no need to feel ashamed for skipping a few days as long as you get back up and try again another time. For many people, even 30 minutes of exercise can improve their physical, and mental, health. Starting to exercise after losing so much of my health to my mental illnesses was a terrible and terrific feat. Terrible, because of all the anxiety that working out can cause, but also terrific, as I begin to view my body as a partner, not a foe.

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Thinkstock photo by monkey business images


If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

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typing on a keyboard, Text reads: 25 statuses people with mental illness want to post on Facebook, but don't

25 Statuses People With Mental Illness Want to Post on Facebook, but Don't


Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

When Facebook asks us, “What’s on your mind?” we know it doesn’t mean it quite that literally. While some people are more open on social media, others feel like they have to post behind a mask — only sharing happy moments and accomplishments to shape how others see them in a positive way. People who live with mental illnesses can relate to this in their everyday lives — it sometimes feels easier to live behind a mask than to let others see your darkness.

While it’s nice to share the good stuff, it’s important to share the dark stuff, too.

To bring a little more honestly to social media, we asked people in our mental health community to share a brutally honest Facebook status they want to post, but don’t.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I obsess about killing myself. When I’m alone, with company, having a conversation or bringing someone else up out of their problems. One day I’m scared the voices will win. So don’t try and give me your judgments, I already judge myself harder than you ever could.”

2. “I’m fucking sick. I’m sick of the pills. I’m sick of the conversations in my head. I’m sick of the fake smiles. I’m sick of the pity looks I get when I offer what’s wrong with me. I’m sick of the weight. I’m sick of the positive fucking messages. I’m sick of fighting for every breath. I’m fucking exhausted of feeling like nothing is going to fix it. No, I don’t want you to fix me. I don’t want you to help me. I don’t want you words of encouragement. I want you to sit here hold my hand and listen.”

3. “Sometimes I can control what’s going on. It’s not me wanting attention or pushing you away. I’m not ‘crazy’ or ‘insane.’ Telling those things to me cause me to feel worse inside then you think. Sometimes I don’t want to hang out or get out of bed, and I need you to understand. I’m not perfect and sometimes I’m afraid of myself and letting people in.”

4. “I just went to the grocery store. Everyone who sees me sees a put together, well-educated, well-spoken, mom and wife. What they don’t know is that when my anxiety is up, like it is now, it takes me five days to mentally prepare to go to the grocery store. The entire time I’m there, I’m praying nobody speaks to me. I only make little eye contact with the few familiar faces I know well.”

5. “The mornings seep into the afternoon and develop into the evening. My day is a blur. I can feel the weight on my shoulders of a thousand worries. I’ve been arguing with my thoughts all day like a never-ending game of tug-of-war. Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win. But with every little victory comes a great downpour of emotion. I exude confidence with a smile to match. It’s easy to cover up my anxieties, but if you really knew what challenged me today, you’d understand what a victory it is for me to still be alive.”

6. “I’m so tired. I’m so tired, all the time, even when I’m at my happiest. At my worst I’m convinced I’m a total waste of oxygen who leeches off her family and friends and doesn’t deserve their love. No matter how many times I convince myself that’s just the depression talking, my anxiety makes sure I fixate on it to the point of obsession (which ironically makes me look even more needy and neurotic). When I sleep in all day or go for constant naps or hang around doing nothing with my life; it’s because I can’t face the day, not because I’m lazy.”

7. “Sometimes it gets so intense, my only thoughts are to get as far away from everyone and everything as I possibly can. My heart feels like I just ran a marathon and every fiber of my being is screaming ‘enough!’”

8. “It (the mental illness) is there every single day, and it’s exhausting. Having to battle your own mind day in and day out while also dealing with the ordinary day-to-day things of life is so incredibly hard and so incredibly tiring.”

9. “If I don’t text you, call you or if I cancel plans last minute it’s not because I don’t still care about you, it’s because I’m exhausted from the illness and I don’t have the strength/energy to fake the happiness, or on the not so good days the illness is telling me I’m a burden to you and shouldn’t bother you.”

10. “I am not actually happy and positive all the time. I dwell on all the negatives in my life and constantly think about suicide. I am at a point in my life where I have more regrets with my life decisions and don’t know if I can trunk it around.”

11. “It’s a constant struggle every second of every day. You fight temptations and urges that you don’t want to have. Even when you’re with friends laughing away, it’s always there. Your mind is plagued at night by thoughts you don’t want, wondering where the old you, the happy you went. It’s torture a kind of agony you can’t express properly no matter how hard you try.”

12. “Some say I play the victim, others say I’m a survivor. Some say I’m bubbly, others say I’m reserved. Some say I’m judgmental, others say I’m compassionate. Some say I’m high strung, others say I’m laid back. Some say I’m boring, others say I’m fun. Some say I’m selfish, others say I’m too giving. Some say I’m too vocal, others say I’m shy. Some say I’m too religious, others say I’m strong in my faith. One thing I do know, is I am me. The good and the bad. I don’t let many people in. I live off instinct, and I pray I get through the day. I’m oversensitive and emotional and some days I can hide it. Some days I’ve held it in too long and need to release before I break down. I hope one day I can connect with people and have truly deep relationships with them. Until then I’ll continue on my path and pray each storm passes a little easier.”

13. “The next person who tells me I wouldn’t need medication if I’d just exercise/get sunshine/take vitamins/do yoga/stop eating gluten/just cheer up is going to get shouted at and possibly kicked right out of my life. If you aren’t a doctor, you don’t know shit about what I deal with, so stop shaming me for taking actual medical advice and doing what I need to feel better.”

14. “It’s tough always being stuck in my head, my past. My thoughts are spinning and I can’t stop them, even if I do distract myself or talk to others. So when I do get triggered, I snap, but I cannot say why because my past still haunts me, and I cannot just get over it like I want to.”

15. “Every day can be hell. I can escape my thoughts while with friends, but as soon as I’m alone again, the negative, self-critical thoughts flood back into dominance. Some days are better than others, but I’m always waiting for them to turn south at the next bend. I feel like everyone can sense that, when I truly know they can’t. I feel like a fake. Instead, I have to remind myself, daily, that I’m the strongest person I know and I can make the best of today. I can live my life, and I can be a success.”

16. “Anxiety is my life. I feel it all the time and in most situations. A lot of times I just need to recharge and can’t be around others. Please be understanding.”

17. “I may look like I have my shit together, like I’m confident in what I do and secure in my relationships and life, but the truth is I question everything. I doubt myself daily. I don’t trust anything because I’m afraid if I trust it I will lose it. I assume anything bad that happens around me is my fault. I constantly feel the need to apologize for my very existence. Deep down I’m just a terrified little girl who just wants someone to love her, protect her and tell her there’s nothing wrong with her and that she isn’t a burden or too needy.”

18. “I’m tired of saying sorry for my mental health when I need to change plans, move a test or anything. Many people don’t understand, and it gets frustrating. I shouldn’t have to apologize for having a mental illness… I shouldn’t always have to prove what’s going on. I’m not trying to make excuses or get out of something.”

19. “I live in a daily hell due to my mental illness. Half the people call me a heroic badass, while others who are mostly in my family, condemn me for not trying hard enough to beat it. I have been through hell and back, and to have to fight the voices every day that tell me no one likes me, that I could never deserve love, that it would be best for everyone if I were to die… I am trying so hard. Why doesn’t it ever seem to be enough?”

20. “I’m still the same person I was before you found out I have a mental illness.”

21. “Anxiety and depression are the anchor of my wings when I’m trying to soar through life. Every time I try to rise above everything they are there to bring me back down.”

22. “Not much hurts me more than when you tell me you think I wouldn’t need to take my antidepressants if I just got some exercise and went to church.”

23. “I didn’t want to open my eyes today. I didn’t want to crawl out of bed today. I didn’t want to sit on the side of my bed, on the floor, crying and shaking. I didn’t want to force myself to slow my breathing to put my clothes on. I didn’t want to make that monumental trip down the stairs and into the living room. I didn’t want to go outside, where it feels like everybody is looking at me. I didn’t want to get on the bus, where everybody could *actually* be looking at me and be driven somewhere by a person I don’t even know. I didn’t want to step into work and see the familiar faces of my friends and co-workers. Why didn’t I want to do any of these things? Everything that is a small part of your day, the easiest part of your day, I could say is like climbing Mount Everest for me. Every step makes the knot in my throat bigger, the elephant on my chest heavier, and the butterflies in my stomach stronger. Every little thing I do is a victory, and every second I’m still here is a gift. I didn’t want to, but I did. And that is the biggest victory I can achieve in my everyday life.”

24. “I’m not happy. But that doesn’t mean I’m sad all the time. And when I smile and laugh, it doesn’t mean I’m happy either. You see my thoughts as ‘negative’ and I see them like… it’s all I’ve ever known. It’s a norm for me. And no, I don’t care if you understand or not. But respect is a thing. All I ever wanted was to be accepted, but I then realized, it doesn’t matter. People will always find something about you, they don’t like. So you might as well be whoever you want. It’s not that easy. If we could ‘get over it’ we would. People are afraid of what they don’t understand.”

25. “Some days I am using every tool in my bag and it’s still not enough. I take my medication, get enough sleep, exercise outside, have lunch with a friend, do simple tasks around the house, see my therapist, pray and listen to music. Those days the sadness feels the heaviest. I wish time moved faster so I could go to sleep in hope of a better tomorrow. There is hope in every sunrise.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

25 Statuses People With Mental Illness Want to Post on Facebook, but Don't


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How I Explore Mental Health Through My 'Bird Girls'


I am a local artist out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, currently an art major and psych minor at the University of New Mexico, and have been creating for as long as I can remember.

My Bird Girls have become a story I must tell, but it didn’t start out as having to do with mental health.

an illustration of a bird

I created my first Bird Girl with the idea that sometimes in our society women are looked at as meek. And myself being a five-foot-tall, smaller young woman, get that a lot. Women are looked at as not being good enough, smart enough or strong enough in our society sometimes, and I wanted to show that through my art that we may look weak, but we aren’t. Just like birds who can carry immensely heavy things, create beautiful nests and are really stunning creatures.

And yet, as I was working on them they became something more.

I realized I was putting my own stress, angers and anxieties into these Bird Girls, which gave me the idea to create images that can spark conversations about mental illness. Because what’s better than raising awareness through cool art? Though I am just getting started putting my work out there, I have found through meeting people randomly that so many people struggle from something, and yet our society has taught us not to speak out about it. To keep it quiet because you might be looked at differently or you might be looked at as weak. And yet, if we did speak about it, not only would we stop feeling marginalized, but we would also realize we are not alone in our struggles. Through my Bird Girls I hope to raise awareness for not only mental health, but also other important issues, but because I have struggled with anxiety myself and have watched family and friends struggle with other mental illnesses, most of the time my work comes out as such.

Here are some of my pieces and I am working hard at creating more! At the moment I am working on a piece for addiction, so keep an eye out for that! If you would like to keep up with me, see more or buy an original or a print, you can check out my website at, or through Facebook @Alexandrea.GArt or Instagram @alexandrea_gowan

I hope you enjoy my work, and that they can fill a place in your heart as they have my own.



Illustration of two birds

illustration of a woman with a bird face


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Artwork by Alex Gowan

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Please Don't Invalidate My Mental Health Because I Went to Private School


“You’ve never had to worry about money.”

“Your parents buy you whatever you want.”

“Oh don’t even get started with me.”

“You don’t know what it’s like to struggle.”

Just a few of the things I’ve heard (repeatedly) from the people in my life – people who don’t know what it’s like to go to a private school and make assumptions based on whatever media they’ve consumed. And it’s not fair. Do not invalidate my experience based on your assumptions about me.

Sure, I go to a nice school and wear a uniform, but what do you know about the life that exists within those walls? You also don’t know the toll it takes on my anxiety and how I couldn’t ask for help when it came to my depression because I knew rumors would spread around the school. And to come out and be open with mental illness would lead to bullying and stress and anxiety, on top of the existing stress and anxiety.

As much as we think we’ve advanced as a society — advanced in creating open spaces, safe spaces and reducing stigma — we’re not as far along as we think.

Because the school is so small, it’s like living in a fishbowl. The competition is fierce, the stresses are high and everything you say and do gets scrutinized, analyzed and amplified. Perhaps this was where my anxiety first began – constantly being on edge, out of fear of saying or doing the wrong things because I knew I would be judged and bullied for weeks on end.

I was anxious all the time and my friends weren’t there for support. They were just people I hung out with, who made the competition all the more serious. I was a perfectionist, I was overworked, stressed and sleep deprived.  And on top of dealing with the daily struggles with body dysmorphic disorder, I had anxiety and lived in an environment that forced me to stay “high-functioning.” There were grades to maintain and appearances to keep up.

If you haven’t lived with a mental illness, you don’t know what it’s like to experience it. You might think my life is all privilege, golf clubs and dinner parties, but you are wrong.

It’s a life of secrecy, living with shame. It’s the inability to ask for help. It’s the need to keep up appearances. It’s being forced to be “high-functioning” despite anxiety and depression. It’s a life of suppressed emotions and oppressed thoughts about mental health. It’s the inability to ask family for help because they don’t believe in mental health and shame you for being ill. It’s feeling resentment and anger, frustration and sadness each and every day without a release.

So please, don’t look down on us “private school kids” like we don’t know better. Don’t shame us for what school we went to. Don’t invalidate our mental health.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Design Pics.


We Need to Stop Calling Donald Trump 'Mentally Ill'


Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

Many people worldwide have watched the rise of Donald Trump and have either been fascinated, entertained, disgusted or horrified by his actions — or a combination of the above mentioned. Because of all the groups and individuals he has targeted throughout political career, people seem to want to know more about this controversial character. For those who can’t comprehend his seemingly impulsive behaviors and a lack of empathy, the initial reaction is to wonder what is “wrong” with the 45th president of the United States. However, it is important to refrain from claiming Donald Trump is mentally ill in order to ensure mental illness doesn’t continue to be connected to villainous personalities as a representation of the real struggles that occur when one’s mental health is affected.

The psychiatric community has been debating a rule from the 1960s called the Goldwater Rule that prevents practitioners from delivering a diagnosis to someone they have not personally seen. John Gartner, a therapist who specializes in depression and personality disorders, has labelled Donald Trump with “Malignant Narcissism” while Dr. Allen Frances, a professor at Duke University who wrote the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, says Donald Trump “[is not] mentally ill because he doesn’t suffer the distress and impairment needed to diagnose mental disorder.”

While it could be argued Trump is exhibiting symptoms from a multitude of psychiatric disorders, calling him “mentally ill” paints a heavy stroke of stigma among those who have issues surrounding mental health. He has stigmatized many individuals and groups of people, which some of his most avid supporters have praised him for. Just as his horrific comment about Mexico sending rapists and criminals contributed to a false narrative around this community, we cannot call Trump “mentally ill” because it will negatively impact the community of people struggling with mental illness. I fear social dialogue over his discrimination can easily become a debate about his mental health instead of about the clear biases he has exhibited over the years.

Every medical term in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) can be categorized under the social umbrella term of “mental illness.” If we continue to call Trump “mentally ill,” those who have experienced mental disorders ranging from trauma to trichotillomania will automatically can get lumped in with the behaviors of Donald Trump just because they are seen as “different.” For those who experience “high-functioning” mental health issues in the workplace or in school, it can be difficult to receive treatment or be taken seriously among their peers because they don’t “look” like they have a mental health difficulty.

Diagnoses are designed to pinpoint what is causing a client distress in order for it to be properly addressed with evidence-based treatments. While diagnosis can be beneficial to a person who is seeking out answers about themselves, giving someone an unwarranted diagnosis based on television appearances also opens the door to any celebrity being diagnosed for the sake of a controversial article. While many therapists are concerned about the fate of the country based on Donald Trump’s traits, I believe their concerns should have a voice in the government rather than through sensationalized media. The psychiatric community is justifiably unsettled by Trump’s behaviors now that he has the most powerful position in the world and it is understandable for them to speak out in these extreme circumstances for the sake of millions of Americans who will be (or already are) negatively affected by his actions.

There are many terms that can be used to describe Donald Trump, but “mentally ill” should not be one of them. With his dangerous rhetoric carelessly being linked to mental illness, we must remember only three to five percent of violent acts are committed by people with mental illness and they are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime. Most people with mental health afflictions aren’t dangerous people. I have a mental illness and am empathetic and do not endorse actions that hurt certain people based on their religion, gender, sexual identity or race. I understand being isolated or forgotten by society.

It may be correct to conclude there is something “wrong” with Donald Trump but it would be wrong to marginalize people with mental health difficulties with the insulting comparison to him. Comparing him  to people who have mental illnesses doesn’t show what it is really like to have a mental illness. We cannot accept it when he targets minorities with generalized terms and we can’t accept when others go astray by loosely associating him with mental illness. Instead, we must look at his behaviors, language and policies to formulate our own opinions about who is he and what he stands for.

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