No shame for mental illness

Kayla McLane

One in four American adults suffer from mental illness according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.re-Kayla mug COLOR

Despite this number, a negative stigma still surrounds the disease. Why is seeing a therapist considered taboo but getting regular check-ups from a doctor an acceptable practice?

We should be encouraged to take care of our brains as well as our emotional and spiritual well-being just as we eat well and exercise for a wholesome physical health.

People don’t choose to suffer from depression, and despite the connotation of choice surrounding suicide, people are victims to the disease—controlled by a monster within their own body.

So many people are forced to suffer alone. They are forced to face the disease living inside of their own head without the support of family members or friends.

Having depression or anxiety should not cause isolation from family members but should instead bring forth compassion and empathy from loved ones. Unfortunately, for many people living with mental illness, this is not the case.

Throughout my life, I’ve dealt with many instances of physical pain, such as a broken bone. I have dealt with the aftermath of surgery and the extensive healing process that follows. I walked through the halls of my high school on crutches. I openly discussed my wisdom teeth surgery with my coworkers.

But in these occasions, I’ve never been made to feel shameful or embarrassed. I was never told to “suck it up” or to just get over the pain I was feeling. Physical illnesses are treated with sympathy and compassion, just as they should be.

Unfortunately, people suffering from mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, are often told to “suck it up” or to just feel better. The message they receive from family members is one that disregards and ignores their situation.

I have also suffered from depression, and in that, I was told to “just feel better.” Unlike my broken bone, my depression was not met with compassion and care.

I kept quiet to my friends and peers about attending therapy, as if there was something inherently wrong with getting help. I fought the idea of having to take antidepressants, although I would never think twice about following a doctor’s orders to take antibiotics for an infection.

Looking back on this experience, I regret my decision to follow the norm and stay quiet. I now want to speak up and help erase the stigma surrounding people who need help with depression or anxiety because our overall well-being is important, and that includes mental health.

Mental illness should be treated with the same level of seriousness as a physical illness. As with any severe physical disease, the consequences of mental illness can be just as fatal. The media treats victims of suicide differently than those of cancer or heart disease, for example.

Local newspapers are told not to report on a suicide because it might cause embarrassment for the family. But why is there this stigma? It’s tragic to a community to lose a member to suicide, just as it would be to lose someone to cancer or a car accident.

When the public ignores the victims of suicide out of fear of embarrassment, they are furthering the stigma that surrounds the act of taking your own life because they are treating the victim as if they deserve to get shamed for losing their battle to depression.

Losing a battle to depression is not shameful. It is not a choice— it is a defeat. The public should celebrate the life that was lived, learn the symptoms, spread awareness and work together to prevent other community members from taking their own life.

For emergency suicide help, please call The Dial Help Community Support & Outreach Center at (906) 482-HELP (4357) or text (906) 35-NEEDS (63337).