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John Green Has a Theory About Why We Stigmatize Mental Illness

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It seems like no topic is off-limits for author John Green, who discusses issues ranging from kids movies to the refugee crisis in a vlog he runs with his brother. But Friday in a personal video, he opened up about a topic even he has a hard time taking about.

“I have a mental illness called obsessive compulsive disorder, which is often associated with anxiety and depression problems,” he said in the video (below). “I try to talk about it sometimes because I don’t think there should be anything embarrassing about mental illness, but I don’t talk about it that much because 1) it’s personal, and 2) I find it difficult to talk about my own experiences with chronic illness.”

He then presented a theory about why people with chronic illnesses, like mental illness, are often marginalized and stigmatized.

“I don’t think we humans like to imagine our lives as random,” he said. “We want human lives to be narratives that makes sense, so if we can’t find causation, we just create it.

For example, he said this is why some think people with depression are lazy or assume someone who has diabetes doesn’t eat well.

“All of that stuff is either totally inaccurate or overly simplistic, but we want every effect to have a cause,” he said.

Green admitted he’s been sick for the last couple of weeks because he’s been trying to figure out new “medication regiment.” He said it’s reminded him of how crushing living with a mental illness can be.

“I’ve learned to celebrate small successes,” he said. “I’ve learned to encourage myself without being cruel. And most importantly I’ve learned that there is hope, and when I feel like there isn’t hope, my brain is lying to me.”

Watch the rest of the powerful video below: 

Originally published: November 23, 2015
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