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3 Ways I Fight Mental Illness Stigma

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The stigma surrounding mental illness is cruel and unfair. The names associated with having a mental illness are poisonous and untrue. We are not crazy. We are not freaks. We don’t belong in a loony bin. We are strong individuals who fight our battles every day to survive and be happy. Not only do we fight the battle of mental illness, but we also fight the battle of stigma. There are three ways I fight stigma on a daily basis: on social media, at the magazine rack and at my local mental health center.

1. I share.

My story is important for me to tell and for others to hear. It turns my illness into something personal and not just a diagnosis out of a book. I can’t expect people to truly understand me or my mental illness if I don’t explain it to them in the most honest way. I share my story without fear of the reaction I will get and know if I am judged it is only because of ignorance.

2. I educate.

Social media is a great place to educate people about mental illness and work toward ending the stigma surrounding it. I share a variety of information: statistics, symptoms and my own story. I’m sure to use credible sources so the information I share can’t be doubted and stay open to questions people may have about my own mental illness. I also educate others by educating myself. There’s always another illness to learn about, more statistics from other countries and more stories to hear. The more I know, the better I can battle my own mental illness and the better I can fight stigma.

3. I encourage.

Sharing my story for the first time with someone I wasn’t close to was scary. But not only did I feel better afterward, the person I shared with had gained a new understanding. I encourage other sufferers to come forward and share their story not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the ignorant, the stigmatizers and the bullies. We can’t expect people to understand mental illness if we don’t explain it to them, and there is no better way to do that then to recount our own experiences. It’s up to us to give mental illness a face and a name so the cruel and false names and descriptions don’t stick.

Stigma is an enemy to people who suffer from mental illness and to those who don’t understand its afflictions. But through sharing our stories, education and encouraging others, we can build an army strong enough to fight and defeat the stigma that surrounds mental illness. We aren’t crazy. We aren’t unhinged. We are people with a story to tell — a story of amazing strength that others just need the opportunity to hear. The fight against stigma will be long, and it will be hard, but with an army that understands mental illness, we can shut down stigma and not have to hear its ugly words ever again.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment where you experienced intolerance or inaccessibility. What needs to happen to change this? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 2, 2016
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