August 31, 2016

"People's comments made my depression into something meaningless, something to be laughed and joked about rather than helped."

A lot of people see mental health stigma as attacks on people with mental health problems, as people who sneer and judge us, or try and deny that mental health is a real issue – that it's all made up. However, over the years I've noticed it can be in the little things too, someone chiding us for being lazy or withdrawn, despite the fact they know we have depression and/or anxiety. It can be found in the way people will laugh and joke around about self-harm or suicide, some of them don't even realise the impact they're having because in their head they're not doing it maliciously. Mental health stigma can be found in the children and parents who are uninformed about the different mental health issues and how to deal with them. 

I remember people in my school making jokes about self-harm or suicide, when talking about homework or a particularly troublesome exam or teacher. The fact they didn't understand that what they were doing would have an impact of people shows just how ingrained the stigma is. They don't see it as a big issue, and thus it's something that they can joke about. None of them knew that every night I'd go home weeping ashamed of my depression and anxiety, ashamed that I couldn't find their jokes funny when they poked fun at my weaknesses and fears.

As my knowledge about my own mental health issues developed, so too did my sensitivity to these comments. It wasn't even so much the content that bothered me, it was the way they made my depression into something meaningless, something to be laughed and joked about rather than helped.

It hurt even more when I would see them share posts or write tweets about not bullying, or raising awareness about suicide. I was too scared to confront them, and tell them that their jokes were contributing to those statistics about suicide and people going years without a diagnosis. They didn't realise what they were doing was wrong because it was just a joke to them – they weren't directly attacking anyone, at least not in their mind.

Stigma needs to be addressed. People need to be educated about mental health and its consequences. People should be taught to respect mental health issues, and that making jokes about it contributes to the harm and suffering of people who experience them. I was too scared to get help because I felt embarrassed. Everyone else found mental health issues funny, so was I just attention seeking or faking it? I realise now looking back that of course I wasn't. I still suffer from depression and anxiety, and it's horrible. My feelings are valid, and I'm no longer ashamed to say that yes I struggle with these issues. I've found myself confronting more people about their jokes even though it terrifies me, because when I was at my worst I needed someone to do that for me, to let me know that my feelings and struggles weren't a joke and that they could be helped. I didn't get that until a few years later – by then the impact is so long term that I often have days where I struggle to think of what life was like without depression.

That's why I'm so passionate about combating stigma. I'm doing it for all the people who have been in my situation or worse – by changing attitudes, we are saving lives. We are helping people get the treatment they need, we're helping them feel less alone, letting them know if something is wrong and what to do.

The truth is, we all need to take part in combating the stigma surrounding mental health. We need to discuss these issues with our friends and family, and we need to make them feel safe to talk to us, not belittle people who seem to get upset over minute things because we should respect that their feelings are valid.

I hope to live in a world where we no longer need mental health awareness days, because everyone is informed and educated about it. They know who to turn to and what to do, they know how to spot the warning signs, or how to tell when something is wrong. Until that day though I am going to be fighting the stigma as much as I can, and so should you.

You can read Emma's personal blog at www.unwillingadult.wordpress.com, and find her on Twitter @campbellxemma.

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Comments

Mental illness is a serious issue

Great blog and great topic! Mental illness is a big problem among the youth due to modern society pressure and its deception of way of life, which has resulted in stress, depression and anxiety.

Completely Agree

It's funny, when people don't understand something, they respond with criticism and unsupportive feedback. This was my many years with anxiety until my support team finally decide to start educating themselves. CBT a supportive team that was educated, as well as a mix of different herbs taken for a minimum of 3 months worked wonders, and I share some of those successes now in the anxiety guy podcast. Great post thank you.

Tips to cure Anxiety

Great article ! People should not make fun of one's mental illness. It is sad when people do not understand something and respond with criticism. You should treat everyone as the same . Thanks for sharing this great topic.

My friend...makes depression jokes

Ok, so I am ok with the subtle self-deprecating joke every once in a while...but I told my best friend that i have Major depressive disorder (depression) (clinical depression) (major depression)...and she now is acting the way I have been for 4 years...and makes depression jokes. For example...: "Its just my DEPRESSION", in a joking matter. She has never been diagnosed with any mental disorders. She also thinks she has A.D.H.D. I HATE her depression jokes..they're not funny to me and they make me feel terribly dreadful. Please help..

Depression is serious

Honestly ive experienced a similar thing remove them out of your life you really dont need someone like that.especially when you have confronted them and they continue she is laughing and mocking you about a serious thing to your face and it sucks that these poisonous people exist in this world.Dont speak to them and find new friends and please try to remember that there are few that understand you and wouldnt even dare to mock or laugh about depression or suicide.Im currently in school now and as someone who suffered from serious depression and still suffers from extreme anxiety and episodes of depression i always always preach about how its not serious and that they should be ashamed for making a joke.I cant laugh or agree with them and it infuriates me when someone will be mildly stressed over a maths question and be like 'im going to kill myself like so and so... cause this question is hard' in a mockig laughing manner.It is sad we have to experience it but remove this person out of your life because they are emotionless idiots that need schooling.sorry for my rambling tho have a great day and i hope things get better x

Ty

Thank you for taking time out of your day to write/type to me. Its really hard for me to find new friends..I'll just wait for high school. I guess it would be better to only have my online friends, since then I won't get attached to them if I go to a different school than them. One less thing to worry about. And also I'm not from the UK, but I feel that most of the people in my state/some people in parts of my country are mostly either hiding behind narcissistic/idiotic personas. Have a great day <33 and hopefully you and me will eventually find other who don't joke about our mental health problems (unless you already have <33) ! @xsomeedits is my Instagram handle if you want to talk (It doesnt have any of my personal information) <33

Thank you

Thank you for having the guts to speak out about this, it has gotten to an extreme stage now where there seems to be no limit to how far somone will go in the media to make a joke, no matter if its at anothers expense/pain, no matter who it hurst, etc. Emotional abuse is a crime now and I dont see why they should get away with it any longer. People should call in and complain.

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