The stigma surrounding mental illness is the same reason I’m not open about my illness with any more than the 4 people in my life that know about it and remain anonymous on twitter. I can’t risk losing my job, the friends I have left and being seen as a wacko with a screw loose. I’m just not capable of dealing with that yet.
Over the past year I’ve been extremely impressed that since starting my Twitter account the difference in people’s attitudes. I’ve met such a mix of people with varied illnesses and it shows me that no one person is the same but we’re certainly not unique either.
Although attitudes are getting better, it’s saddened me this week to realise how much further we have to go in order to make mental illness mainstream and unjudged.
My girlfriend is a massive soap fan, anything that contains bad actors, over exaggerated storylines, and ‘duff duffs’ is right up her street. Me? They annoy the hell out of me, but because I like to watch masterchef on repeat we have to compromise, and sometimes there will be a topic that I can actually did interesting.
The latest one is Eastenders. Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner’s character I believe) has a long history of having a Bipolar disposer. I think some years ago it was addressed, and they regularly slip in the ‘I’ve had my meds’ line into the script. Recently, she had a baby, and doesn’t seem to be handling it all to well, and is currently going to a period where her mental state isn’t what it normally is. I don’t know the exact illness, but I believe it’s fairly common with new mum’s. The actress herself is doing an incredible job at portraying it, and doing so from a sympathetic point of view, what’s sad is the response some people are giving.
I had a look on Twitter last night at trends after the latest episode, and to be honest I found a lot of it quite sad. A lot of comments were saying how good she was at playing the part, how great it is to be bringing to the forefront to such a large audience. However, there were also a lot of negative tweets. Tweets like ‘she’s lost the plot’, ‘Stacey’s gone mental’ or ‘LOL she’s a fruit loop!’.
I understand a lot of this is just down to ignorance, lack of education along with a long standing stigma that will take a good few years to eradicate. What makes it sad, is that before this I was under the impression that things were getting better. I thought maybe there would be a time I could be 100% open about my illness, with no fear of stigma getting in the way, and if it did I wouldn’t care. The stigma surrounding us is, and I fear will be for a long time, a big factor in our current state of mind and lack of support.
By eradicating stigma, we create a topic, a topic that a large group of people (1-in-4) are prepared to stand up, speak and will be heard rather than judged. From discussion, we present a problem, a problem that will need a solution and bring enough attention that will add pressure to finding that solution. Way back when, HIV had a stigma attached and went ignored. As time went on, it became more mainstream, and now it’s no longer a killer due to research and treatment.
Will there be a cure for mental illness? I’m not so sure. Do we deserve the opportunity to at leaf try? Absolutely.
One day I hope stigma won’t get in the way of my mental state, my ability to open up about it, or my chances of being free from anxiety. Until then, we must keep fighting for what will one day be rightfully ours, a mental illness free life, with the best support and treatment available and research to allow continued improvement.