The Stigma of Mental Health
I learned of a psychological theory the other day: Pluralistic ignorance. What this theory talks about is the idea that we believe we are the only person to believe something because no one else talks about it, and yet our belief is a lot more widespread than we believe. This is how surprises happen in elections – One side is shouted down in public, and they raise their voice in the privacy of a voting booth. I would suggest that pride and fear of public shaming are the roots of this, and I believe it is the same with mental illness, the subject of this article.
No one likes to feel weak, different, or show vulnerability. We like to feel strong, and that we have something to offer so we can belong in a group. Sometimes we even keep our fears and wounds from those closest to us for fear of rejection or ridicule. What chance do we have for healing as a society when people fear speaking out about things that are causing them pain and distress? In a world becoming ever more divided and broken where the individual comes above the group, how does someone who feels broken and unwanted find the courage to risk rejection and ridicule and ask for help?
They don’t. They stay silent, and they suffer. We all do it.
I have spoken many times of the number of people I have known, myself included, who have had just one person who believed in them and helped them find belief and turn around. It isn’t someone helping because they have it all together with their lives in order. It is someone helping because they can.
Here are the three take aways for today:
1 – You may be broken, and you may feel like you are the only person to ever feel like you do right now. You may feel you have to face this on your own, but you’re not alone. While no one has walked your exact path, others have been down similar paths before.
2 – We are all very good at saying “I’m here if you need me,” but rarely do we take steps to check on people. Start a habit today to check in on at least one person a week who you know is struggling. If we all do this we can change the world, maybe not for everyone, but for at least one person.
3 – Get help. If you don’t feel you can talk to someone call a helpline, there is a list of many international suicide helplines listed here and here. There are other resources available and if you need help finding them I can be contacted here.
In our busy lives, trying to deal with our own problems, it is easy to keep moving. It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to think that everyone else has it together, and we’re the only ones struggling. In a world where mental illness isn’t talked about, it is easy to believe no one else is struggling. You’re not alone.
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Picture: The Scream by Edvard Munch.