Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
Enjoy! :-)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My Mental Illness Does Not Define Me!

Often when I tell people I have a mental illness they immediately want to know all of the specifics of my diagnosis. Admittedly this interest in my diagnosis could just be a general curiousity, but it all too often feels as if their interest stems from feeling they need to know the specifics in order to modify their behaviour toward me in some way.

As much as I'm all for advocating educating people about mental illness and mental health issues in order to reduce stigma - asking someone point blank about their diagnosis is not only a bit invasive (some people are willing to talk about their diagnosis, but normally on their own terms!), but also, more often than not, they may not actually know the specifics of their diagnosis. 

But, more to the point, when dealing with an individual, the specifics of their diagnosis is not of any importance, unless they are being placed under your care (in which case one wouldn't be required to specifically ask that person about their diagnosis). If you want to get to know someone, you get to know them - not their mental illness.

A person's personality; morals; intelligence; appearance; class; wealth; social status; friends; hobbies; actions; and so on, are not defined by their mental illness.

In other words; a person cannot be defined by their mental illness.

Sometimes when I tell people I have a mental illness they express surprise; some even go as far to say they do not believe me. I have questioned these people who say they don't believe me as to why they think that; the response, "You seem too normal", never fails to surprise me! 

Unfortunately, stigma towards mental health issues means people hold views that anyone with a mental illness should stick out from a mile away and are distinguishable from "normal folk" as they are busy "acting crazy". 

An ignorant view which is supported by most of the media: as soon as anyone does anything out of the ordinary they're labelled "crazy" or "mad"; even in the cases of murderers, etc. words like "psycho" or "nutter" are used - and then these same adjectives are attributed to those with mental illnesses!

Yes some really horrible people are mentally ill. But so are some of the most honest, decent, beautiful (not in the aesthetic sense) individuals you could ever hope to meet!

Having a mental illness does not define a person. Mental illness does not pertain to whether someone is a good person or not. Knowing a person's diagnosis is not largely useful when getting to know an individual; however, I do believe that educating yourself on mental health is a highly commendable idea. But a person will always be a whole lot more than their mental illness!

4 comments:

  1. Thank you! My parents haven't even taken the time to educate themselves about my diagnosis. They act as if I am a crazy nutter! I am so disapointed by their unwillingness to open their minds for me. They just stick their heads in the sand. Also, as more people become aware of my diagnosis, I've realized the HUGE amount of stigma still out there! It's an uphill battle trying to convince people you are not just a mental illness.

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  2. I love it. This expresses so many mutual feelings I have with you.

    Very well written as well.

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  3. Great sharing! Indeed! Cognitive behavioral therapy is beneficial for treating several psychological, psychiatric and medical disorders. Patients with psychological disorders like uncontrollable anger and compulsive gambling can be treated with this therapy.

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