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Why We Need to Breakdown the Stigma of Mental Illness

"I Don't Know What to Do With My Life"

As we come to terms with the loss of a brilliant entertainer, we need to understand the reality of mental illness, and destroy the stigma around it.

Following the news of Robin Williams’ suicide, people around the world have been mourning one of the funniest and most passionate entertainers of our time.

TV and online newsfeeds have been a blur of memorials, best of collections, profound quotes from Robin himself and roles he played, as well as countless tributes.

While many are finding it difficult to believe that a man who was able to bring laughter and joy to so many people could take his own life, it is the reality of the situation.

There has also been another large trend throughout the media, an open conversation on what ultimately led to Williams’ death – severe and chronic depression.

The effect of depression on your life

Most of us know about depression, and that it has to do with not being happy. But that is not an accurate understanding of the self-hatred and self-destruction caused by the disease. Depression stops you from thinking and behaving as your normal self. It not only prevents you from finding joy, but also stops you from working, communicating, sleeping, eating, and even getting out of bed. Depression calls you ugly, stupid, pathetic and a failure. It will consistently tell you that you’re not good enough, and that you’re unloved. Depression does not leave room for hope.

When you’re depressed, your logic is skewed, being down becomes normal and everything else is not. Asking for help can seem impossible, as it would first take picking up a phone, and then actually speaking to someone about your illness. Even if you have everything in the world, it still feels as though you have nothing at all.

Many depressed people try to self-medicate, such as Williams who was a cocaine and alcohol addict. Substance abuse and other forms of self-harm are not uncommon for people living with a mental illness. As Williams himself said after relapsing, you’re just “filling in a hole”.

The stigmatization of mental illness

What some of us fail to realize is that people with mental illness are sick all of the time, even if they are not actively experiencing a mental health crisis, they are still living with the condition. Mental illness isn’t something you entirely heal from, it’s not a broken bone, it’s something you manage, at times more successfully than others, and it’s always part of your life. You express mental illness in different ways throughout your life, but it is always present.

The articles that have discussed depression have largely been focused on encouraging sick people to seek help, and for family and friends to be supportive. Yet, while these are sincere and well-meant thoughts and ideas, they don’t necessarily address the bigger picture. In order to prevent people from living in isolation and being tortured by diseases such as depression, the world needs to breakdown the stigmatization of mental illness. We need to end the shaming of people with mental illnesses and stop delegitimizing their pain, as it only causes them to hold up within themselves until they reach a breaking point.

Statistics vary on the number of people living with a mental illness, yet it is safe to say that one in five people have mental health problems, ranging from mild to severe. And most of the people with mental health illnesses are hesitant to ask for help and let their sickness become known, because of the stigma our society holds.

In order for the disgrace of mental illness to be erased, each individual needs to be responsible in creating not only a supportive, but also nonjudgmental environment for people with mental health conditions. But, this next part is even more crucial; this supportive and nonjudgmental environment must be available all the time, not just when there is a period of crisis around someone’s death.

There is no one right solution to treat depression and mental illness. Mentally ill individuals need specific treatment for their personal situation. Yet, a supportive and nonjudgmental space to heal in would certainly be a helpful start. And if it existed at all times, and not only in desperation, true transformation in the mental illness world could take place.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. You didn’t have the opportunity to see yourself as the world saw you, a funny, loving and passionate human. Your tragic death has allowed many people to open up and talk about depression. In your honor, and for all the others struggling with mental illness, or have been taken by suicide, we will fight to break down the stigma surrounding mental health illness. We will work to live in a world that every person sick with mental illness can feel unashamed, and safe coming out.

As Williams said in one of his most brilliant roles, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change this world.” 

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4 thoughts on “Why We Need to Breakdown the Stigma of Mental Illness”

  1. Orlando says:

    We live in a much better world today that doesn’t stigmatize mental illnesses nowadays, but yes, there’s still that ignorant voice that’s prevalent and it’s unfortunate that so many people choose to listen to it. As someone with depression, I can’t say I’m any differently abled because of it. Yes, my mind works a little bit differently and sometimes I’m less functional than I ought to be, but I can still get a job done when I have to and I’m always able to keep my commitments. One of these days, we’ll live in a world that’s free from the stigma. We’re getting closer every day, that’s for sure.

  2. aranel says:

    I honestly thought that I could never get cured from my mental illness. I suffered schizophrenia when I was in my 20s. I was institutionalized for 5 years and thanks to the wonderful doctors I got cured. I really thought that all the people I knew who knew where I went would really get away from me because I was a crazy person. Although, I know deep in my heart that I am no longer crazy. To my surprise, when I got home, everybody that I knew way back from high school threw a bash for me and I was really happy.

  3. Taas says:

    My mum suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. She has done since before I was born. I love her to bits but sometimes her illness is just too much to handle. I’m now 20 years old and feel so conflicted. My mum can be incredibly manipulative, she’ll lie and use emotional blackmail to get what she wants. I hate her for it sometimes and yet I feel guilty for harboring any bad feelings towards her because she has so little control over her own actions. She’s suffered from mental problems since before I can remember. As far as I’m aware she’s had problems with her mental health since her teens. As a result of these issues, she has attempted to take her life on several occasions. Once before I was born, again when I was 8 years old and then most recently, 4 years ago when I was fourteen. It’s been incredibly difficult to deal with, for both me and my dad. I really don’t know where I would be without him – he’s my rock. Unfortunately my mum was admitted to a psychiatric hospital just yesterday and I can only be grateful that it is for depression and not because she is losing her grip on reality and suffering from severe hallucinations and delusions as she has in the past. Sad, really. But the reality now is that I’m scared of myself. Scared of my own mind. I wonder if I’ll break like she did and if I do, what happens then? I’ve locked myself away because I can’t let people get too close. And sometimes that breaks my heart. I don’t really know why I’m writing this. Maybe to just be able to release some of the emotion that I have kept locked away for so long. Maybe to help others who are also in this position. All we can do is keep plodding on and hope for a brighter future.

  4. Hakka says:

    I actually have killed 10 people to date but no one had pressed charges against me. You know why? I have been making friends with people and knowing a lot about them and eventually they tell me who are the people they hate. I would ask where they live and I kill their enemies for them. In the end, they get the blame and I get satisfaction. I know that I have something wrong that I need to get fixed but I just love killing people. I get this blood rage where I only want to taste the blood of the people I kill. I ravage them to death and if I kill girls, I rape their lifeless bodies and cut off their boobs and rip of their nipples by hand. I am a mentally impaired person and I love who I am!

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