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Mental Illness Stigma

Updated on April 7, 2016

The Mental Illness Stigma Of the Twenty-First Century

The twenty-first century will be forever remembered as the era of acceptance. The new generation has made quite a name for themselves, proud of their ability to accept what their parents could not. Always understanding and accepting of others differences and individualism, the new generation enjoys their new found freedom and sense of rebellion that comes with this new attitude. Not only have homosexuals and trans genders now become very prevalent, open, and casual topics of discussion, but so has the legalization of marijuana. So while they're at it, why not tackle the world of mental illness as well?

Words such as depression and anxiety may be found often on social media now a days both in informal and formal settings. Mental illness is now presented in schools as an approachable topic that is encouraged in an effort to spread awareness and provide support. However, have mental illness terms become the new slang? The new generation has now normalized mental illness to the point opening up about one's struggles mentally has become a popular fad in the online world. Tweets mentioning panic attacks, and Facebook posts expressing depression fill the internet claiming everyone's attention.

Of course everyone to some extent has experienced anxiety and/or depression, but do people recognize to which degree those feelings must escalate to be considered a mental illness or disorder? To those who have actually been diagnosed with a mental illness, such as major depression, these what may seem as innocent, open, and accepting comments and posts may be considered offensive and insensitive. While people may not realize their mistake in doing this harm is still done. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses that everyone may relate to, to a certain extent, making these feelings more easily accepted.

However, there is a line where the sane and mentally unstable do not see eye to eye and all compassion is lost. The common misconception that one's feelings and resulting actions are a choice and the person is simply choosing to have the disorder in fact contradicts the definition of a mental disorder itself. In order for a mental illness to be diagnosed, a key factor is that the subject lacks control. Because let's be honest, who would choose the life of the mentally ill?

However the world is a deceptive place. From personal experience, I may say a girl in my high school class attempted suicide in the washroom. Students were asked to remain seated in their current class while she was carried unconscious on a stretcher into an ambulance. I will admit these events shook me to the core considering my experience and past with mental illness. However my classmates had quite the different opinion to voice. Comments ranged from "She did it for attention." to " Couldn't she have waited until we had all gone home and not wasted my time?" and "I saw this so many times in the hospital it doesn't even phase me anymore, it's no big deal, people try to kill themselves all the time." I was disgusted. That poor poor girl. I'm sorry to inform you but this girl did not exit the building near dead for attention, and did not switch schools after being released from the hospital so you would send her your opinions. That was the day that I realized the world had simply only been pretending to be accepting of mental illness.

Of course, it's difficult to accept something you can't understand and may be frightened of. This is what makes accepting bipolar disorder that much more difficult. Unlike anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder encompasses feelings, thoughts, and actions that your average person most likely does not experience or comprehend. Speaking from personal experience even I may admit that before being diagnosed with psychotic rapid cycling bipolar disorder, I too had stigma against bipolar that I hadn't been aware of.

So what is stigma? Stigma is a predetermined belief or opinion of something that surrounds the topic. It is typically very judgmental and most likely false. So you could say when the diagnosis came off my psychologist's lips I was more than surprised. We as a society have set up a false security blanket that in the end will result in more damage than good. The struggle of humanity will forever be to accept what we do not know. While this may be our weakness as well as our strength, as we strive to learn more, we could learn a thing or two from the compassion animals express each and everyday. The new generation may hold their heads high above past generations but in order to ever achieve true success the people of the twenty-first century must see past their achievements and see what still needs to be done.

How do you feel the new generation's accepting attitude is impacting society?

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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 21 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      The new generation may be much more accepting of mental health issues, but we still do no know what to do with them. Just like a fast moving cancer, the word "cancer" or "mental illness" still sends the same message. It is something we don't understand if we have not experienced it, therefore, we shudder when it is mentioned. You are right in that mental health terms are becoming the "new slang." We readily say we are depressed when we are sad, and that we are anxious when we are nervous about something. And yet, when someone has a severe mental illness, they act differently, and we are not sure what to do, therefore we shy away from them.