Stigma sucks. It is a mindset so strong that even those who advocate for, educate on behalf of, and support those with mental illnesses; even those with a best friend, a parent, a sibling with a mental illness; and even those who suffer from a mental illness themselves often still carry around some amount of stigma. This doesn’t have to mean that you believe someone else is lesser because of their mental illness, or that their illness doesn’t matter, stigma also manifests itself in the person who feels embarrassed to ask for help, the person who acts uncomfortable when their friend needs to vent about their struggles, and the person who cancels plans because their “stomach hurts,” not because they’re anxious. These actions aren’t inherently bad, but they occur because of stigma and unintentionally promote it by silencing the conversation. These three occurrences could have started a conversation with a parent, a friend, a peer. They could have been conversations that opened someone’s eyes, got someone help, or caused the spread of conversation, which is the best way to reduce stigma. We need to start talking to each other and work through the discomfort because eventually, the more conversations we have, the more acceptable talking about mental illness can be.
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