It's six in the evening and I'm sitting in the Psychiatrist's waiting room. This is my second appointment of the day. There are seven of us waiting: a boy fresh from school in his uniform, two couples and a middle aged woman who is texting on the sofa. To the casual observer we may as well all be waiting for the dentist, we look so dull, so boring – but we are all here because we all experience mental health problems.
Why is it so much harder to say I have a psychiatrist appointment than to say I'm going to the dentist? I can't help but wonder about that as I sit curled up on the sofa in my black skinny jeans and grey jumper.
I'm 16, I have taken my GCSEs, I like boys, I shop where all other teenage girls shop, I wear my hair in the same way, but I suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder. I'm embarrassed, insecure, worried to tell people this singular fact, which seems to define me and has been a big part of my life for six years, because I’m scared they'll call me a freak. I'll be different, ‘weird’, a ‘nut case’ because I go to a psychiatrist.
Why is someone who is organised labelled as OCD? Why must everyone who is ever sad have depression? Why is everyone who changes his or her mood suffering from bipolar disorder?
These everyday stereotypes make light out of something that is not light. It is lonely and dark. If people discriminate against one of us, they discriminate all of us. As humanity, we tend not to stereotype or discriminate those who are physically ill, for instance those who suffer from cancer. The mentally ill are not weak, we battle our own minds every hour of every day, and it hurts, believe me that, so please give us what we deserve: respect. People with mental health problems are all ordinary. We look ordinary; our minds simply work differently.
Now and again we all slip up and say the wrong thing, but as we battle to stop racism and save refugees, please let's try to help the quarter of the world’s population who are suffering from mental health issues by combating mental health discrimination.
I’m not criticising those who discriminate based on mental illness because the truth is that people, and especially young people, don’t know enough about mental health to understand. Once people understand, they can help. Once my friends began to understand, they could help. They understood that I have good and bad days; they understood that small things, like texts or a walk outside to clear my head, made a huge difference. Suddenly I didn't feel quite so alone. I’m no longer ashamed to tell them I’m going to see my psychiatrist. But this only makes me want to help more people to learn about mental health, in the hope that this will allow people who suffer to become more confident about their mental health knowing that they won’t have to face it alone.