Nobody wants to be labeled mentally ill. I get it. I get it more than anyone. I mean, I don’t like the label of being bipolar and all of the stigmas that go along with it, so I definitely understand that one. But when I hear people say “they did not have a mental illness”, then I know they don’t understand what mental illness really is.
When I wrote Unfairly Labeled: The Bipolar Stigma, I honestly didn’t know the hornets nest that was about to be uncovered by the media outlets. I didn’t know what responses to the news of well-known celebrities taking their lives would bring. I guess I had hoped for better.
I guess I need to get more granular to help others understand that mentally ill goes much deeper than what the majority want to realize. It isn’t about being bipolar, schizophrenic, or paranoid delusional. Someone battling addiction, depression, or with trauma is also dealing with a form of mental illness. It is something our society has to learn to accept and get past. Just because you don’t like the words mentally ill doesn’t mean you have to be ignorant about what it really is.
The Mayo Clinic defines mental illness as a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. In fact, I’m willing to bet everything that everyone has been affected by some form of mental health issue at some point or another in their lifetime.
Some prime examples:
- Those who serve active duty in the armed forces
- Those who work in civil service
- Educators, especially in today’s climate
- Individuals who have struggled with an addiction of some sort (not limited to, but including: alcohol, drug, shopping, eating…)
- Individuals who have suffered mental, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse
- Individuals who have suffered bullying (even if minor)
- Individuals who have been hit with economic hardship (bankruptcy, foreclosure, repossession, job loss/lay off)
- Individuals who have suffered sudden or gradual physical injury, disability, or limitations
- Individuals who have suffered traumatic loss, whether through disease, illness, catastrophe, accident, or suicide
These people don’t necessarily have a clear cut diagnosis of depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. No, these are not as clear, cut, and dry. No, these have a much more deeper and more defined diagnosis. Something that has a trigger. Something that psychiatrists and specialized therapists psychologists, as well as social workers, can work much better at finding was to navigate a much healthier path to a much more productive life.
In fact, as a bipolar, I am jealous of those with these. There is an end, despite long term effects. There is no end for mine. I have to live with my diagnosis. It will never go away.
But the point of this blog is to say, when someone says to me “they were not mentally ill”, I’m more to question if they are not willing to understand what the definition of mentally ill really is.
This is why we need to bring a better understanding of mental health and mental illness to light. Sure, there is more awareness, but we are far away from where we need to be.