THIS SHORT Q&A IS AN INTERVIEW REFLECTING A REAL MENTAL ILLNESS VICTIM'S TRUTHS.
THEIR IDENTITY WILL BE KEPT ANONYMOUS FOR RESPECTIVE PURPOSES.
Daion Stanford: How do you identify with mental illness?
A: Well, I’m currently dealing with depression but I don’t voice it much.
Stanford: When you say you don’t “voice it,” what exactly do you mean by that? Do you mind elaborating?
A: Well honestly, because of how everyone mistreats people who suffer from different things like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or even dementia, it’s sort of like a discouragement. I mean, I’ll never go shouting out I have depression, but sometimes, people like me actually need someone to talk to… people that understand I mean.
Stanford: Do you feel it is important for people to be informed about mental health?
A: Of course! There are so many misconceptions and assumptions about mental illness and people who are dealing with it… so much judgment and shaming. It’s so disgusting. People like me should feel at least some type of ‘okay’ to disclose mental illness concerns. But I don’t. There’s more to it that people are unaware of and I think that’s what upsets me the most. I see so many things on TV, you know like when that officer killed that black guy? He suffered from mental illness too, but they didn’t care. All they saw was a man with darker skin than theirs who appeared ‘hostile.’ It’s more than society that needs awareness, but law enforcement officials too. They literally suck when it comes to the effective handling of mentally ill individuals.
Stanford: Do you think many sufferers of mental illness internalize their thoughts and issues?
A: *sarcastically chuckles* Hell, I do. What else am I supposed to do? Think about it. We get shut down when we decide to open up. Reasons why I choose not to. I mean, I’ll talk to a close girlfriend of mine or even my therapist, but I’m even hesitant then. After awhile--well, for me at least--it’s more about keeping my business simply mine. I feel as though in order to maintain some bit of happiness, I have to just deal with my issues the best way that I can with the resources I already have.
Stanford: Do you find yourself lacking self-esteem or confidence?
A: Hmmm. Yes and no. Majority of the time, I’m cool, calm. Chillin’. Just good. Then other times, I think about how difficult it is for me to even want to be out socializing with people. Honestly, I don’t even like being around people.
Stanford: Would you say stigma plays a role in perpetuating the feeling in mental health victims that they have somehow failed?
A: Stigma is bull-crap if you ask me. It’s pure hatred, discrimination for real. I used to feel like a failure a lot, only because I felt like I would never progress mentally and emotionally. But then, something overcame me, like this hidden faith I somehow had. Something told me I’ll be alright, and honestly. I’m alright...
Many people wait until someone hurts themselves to be able to finally see the seriousness of mental health and its effects on its victims. Harsh? Not at all. You see, because people persistently talk negatively about mental health and those who are currently suffering from it as if it’s a joke,or just “not that serious.” So, simply put, until someone’s best friend, cousin, or uncle harms themselves, no one takes them seriously.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to be informed. Check on your loved ones. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, victims often find it difficult to come forward and acknowledge their illness. Most times, victims tend to believe they did something wrong when they did not. It’s normal for sufferers to feel this way, further encouraging their hurt and embarrassment. The Fact of the matter is mental health is important and deserves more dialogue throughout different communities to increase understanding and awareness.
Different conversations need to happen in order to understand those who suffer from mental illness and the strategies needed for implementation. Sufferers often experience a double stigma when dealing with their illness(es). They not only have to endure the effects and disabilities of their illness(es) but also the prejudices, injustices, and misconceptions about mental illness/health. Often times, people are unaware that the stigma surrounding mental health prevents victims from actively and comfortably socializing with diverse groups of people and obtaining employment opportunities. A mental health awareness truth would be acknowledging that the “stigma” of mental health victims is another form of discrimination. The negative stereotypes that shame those with mental illness and prevent them from seeking help don’t just constitute stigma ― they’re discrimination. It’s a blatant, prejudicial outlook on a certain population.
Understanding and awareness is where progress can begin. People must understand that mental illness does exist and it is essential to understand the depth and scope of the misconceptions and prejudices against sufferers of mental illness. Be real with yourself. If it was your mom or auntie, you would care much more than you do now. But at the same time, it’s probably one of your close friends at the moment. You just never know. Educate yourself on topics that hold weight because you can never know too much information.
Personal Definition of Mental Illness: Mental illness is maneuvering, exploring, and navigating through an unappealing lifestyle, while internalizing lies and the lack of contentment, with the need for external support to manage stress.