stigmas and mental illness

“If I had to chose between having cancer or suffering from a mental illness, I would chose cancer. Because not only is cancer is far better understood in modern medicine, there are actual treatment options available. No one would ever dare call me “weak”, or ask me to “man up” or “shake it off”. I would receive sympathy and understanding not only from my family, but from society as a whole. While mental illness is still a relatively new concept and treatment options are still highly debated. Many people are under the impression that those suffering from a mental problem are “weak”. Since a mental illness is not visible to others but merely felt by the sufferer, it leaves so much left unknown, so much room to judge, criticize and to worst of all, ignore.”

Saying to someone who is depressed to “shake it off” is about as helpful as yelling at a person in a coma to wake up. They cannot help feeling sad and trust me, they want nothing more then to “shake it off”. No one wants to live in endless pain and sadness. The powerful chemicals in their brain are altered and imbalanced, they have no control over it.

Suicide is the last, and most helpless option out. We all, as human beings, instinctively want to live. We are born with this powerful instinct, so to go against that can show a fraction of the pain and suffering that an individual went through to decide to end his or her life. Their pain outweighed their will to live.

That is not shameful or selfish – that is utterly heartbreaking.

I’m so glad to see that discussions around mental illness have been forced out of the dark and into the spotlight. We can learn a lot from Robin Williams’s case. We as a society, can move forward and try to understand exactly what mental illness is, to empathize rather than cast it aside as “real problems” and minimize their pain.

I hope as a society we can eliminate suicide as a taboo subject and instead find better and more effective ways to find suicidal people the help they need and deserve.

I believe that one day we will get there.

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