Kill the stigma surrounding mental illness, save lives

By Isabelle Beezley, Editor-in-Chief

 pill bottle

I take medication every day to regulate my depression—a serious mental illness that is treated just as any other illness would be.

 

 

   Even as I sat on my bedroom floor, dragging the blade of a pencil sharpener across the delicate skin of my inner arm, it never occurred to me that I had a mental illness.

   I knew that I was not “okay.” I often thought of suicide. What I didn’t think of, however, was reaching out for help.

   From what others had told me, people who used self-harm as a coping mechanism were attention seekers, crybabies, emo.

   I was far too embarrassed to come forward. After all, what did I, a privileged white girl, have to complain about? I had no real “reason” to be depressed, so I kept my mouth shut and my sleeves pulled down in the fear that I too would be labeled as yet another teenage drama queen.

   I never did tell anyone. But scars don’t stay hidden forever.

   When I finally did receive professional help, I still had trouble accepting my issues as being attributed to a mental illness. It seemed unfair to me. Others had it so much worse and still managed to live without thoughts of suicide. I didn’t have it so bad, right?

   I began to label myself.

   Needy. Attention whore. Whiner. Weak. Pathetic. Ungrateful.

   I called myself these names because nobody told me the truth about depression and other mental illnesses: they don’t discriminate, they can affect anyone, they are common, but most importantly they are nothing to be ashamed of.

   Everyone needs help at some point in their lives. Everyone carries emotional baggage. It’s time to stop shoving it into the closet and hoping it will disappear.

   In order to provide support to teens struggling with mental illnesses, we first have to work to remove the stigma surrounding it.

   Mental illnesses are not teenage angst. They are not moodiness. They are deadly. They are an illness like any other and they need to be treated as such.

   Teens need to know that thoughts of suicide are not normal, but they are a symptom of a deeper problem—a treatable problem. Mental illness can be treated, either through therapy or medication or a combination of both. There are so many resources for mental health help. All one needs to do is ask. The real problem lies in the hesitation of many to seek treatment due to the labels that could be placed on them.

   Until mental health help is normalized, many sufferers will go untreated. Left to struggle alone, some will turn to suicide.

   Mental illness needs to be discussed—openly and truthfully—no matter how “uncomfortable” it may seem.

   Let there be no more empty pill bottles, fume-filled garages, blood soaked razors, and knotted ropes. It’s time to take mental illness as seriously as physical illness. No one would write off a cancer patient as a “complainer,” so why treat a person with major depression as overly sensitive or weak? Both illnesses could have the same result for the victim: death.

   It is the responsibility of everyone to look for the signs of mental illness in their friends and family members. If a person is showing symptoms, ask them about it. Most of the time just having a friend to discuss issues with is helpful. Show support to those who have been diagnosed. And most of all, take care of your own mental health. Reach out for help if your situation becomes too overwhelming.

   It’s time to stop smiling ourselves to death. Take it from me; you can only say “I’m just tired” so many times.