Awareness. I think awareness is the only way to diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. Stigma can be so detrimental. Some people do not get help because they know that some people will treat them differently if they knew. They might be afraid that their family would ostracize them. They might be worried that they will lose their job if people thought they were unstable. People with mental illness should not feel ashamed because they need help. They need supportive people in their lives to help them get treatment.
I am blogging today about mental illness because today is Mental Health Month Blog Party over at the American Psychological Association. Not that I don't blog about mental health all the time - I just have a good reason to today :)
As many of you know, I suffer from clinical depression, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. I take five pills a day to combat these. I am not ashamed of my illness or of the fact that I see a psychologist and a therapist. I will tell anyone who wants to know. It wasn't always like that, though. I did not get treatment until well into my college years. My family thought there was nothing wrong with me, so I would just be a cry baby if I went to a doctor for it. I was always worried that people would assume I was crazy, when I knew I wasn't. It was difficult for me, the same that it is for millions of Americans.
There are lots of consequences of not seeking treatment. Homelessness, incarceration, episodes of violence, and suicide are just some of the major consequences. Others include loss of time at work, difficulties with relationships, and worsening of the disease. We need to help fight stigma so that these people who suffer from mental illness can seek treatment without fear of being judged.