Ending the stigma around mental health

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By: Samuel Smith, Columnist

Hi. I’m Samuel Smith. I’m 18 years old, a Capricorn and I’m bipolar. I have bipolar II to be specific.

That’s not something you normally say. You wouldn’t introduce yourself and say what mental illness(es) you have. Most people would look at you funny if you mentioned them. Even in the best of friendships, sometimes you can’t tell them you’re mentally ill. Why is this? Why is there a stigma?
Bipolar disorder affects me. It affects how I act, what I do and certain rituals I have (I have to take medicine after breakfast and dinner, and it’s almost comical how big my pill organizer is). Folks are perfectly willing to ask what that little blue and pink pill is, but when they find out it’s lithium, suddenly I’m a freak, I’m other, I’m sickly. But just like the fact I’m a Capricorn, my bipolar II should be equally mundane. It should not elicit a response when I say I’m bipolar, just as it shouldn’t elicit a response when I say I’m a Capricorn (unless, of course, you’re an Aries).

Mental health is important. It’s just as important as any other health and as important as physical health. But there’s such a stigma around it. How about we analyze that stigma, think critically about it and attempt to get rid of it?

According to, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the first step is toTalk openly about mental illness.” This is probably the hardest thing to do. It’s hard to be open about something so stigmatized, but it’s so worth it. By being open, by sharing your story, you’re inviting others with mental illness to be open and honest, and you are inviting those who do not have a mental illness to think about how they think about mental illness with a critical lens.

A friend of mine on Facebook recently commented on how “bipolar” the weather has been. Language like this is not okay. Unless someone explicitly has a diagnosis (and is okay with you sharing that diagnosis), it’s not okay to place a label like that. Also, avoid slurs such as “retarded” as there is a history of abuse behind such words.

Hi. I’m Samuel Smith. I’m 18 years old, a Capricorn and I’m bipolar. I have bipolar II to be specific. But I’m so much more than my mental illness, and I’m so much more than the stigma surrounding it too.

 

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