Stigma around mental ill health
Someone who is already coming from a place of feeling unwell, can feel even worse if experiencing negative judgements about their illness. To escape stigma, people with mental illness sometimes are very reluctant to tell someone what they are going through: they withdraw from social events and places where people meet, may self-medicate (start taking drugs or drink alcohol) and feel ashamed that they are mentally unwell. Their self-esteem suffers and they start to believe the negative judgements they hear. They can be incorrectly perceived as being lazy, stubborn or not trying hard enough. No-one asks to become unwell regardless of mental or physical disability and deserve respect and appropriate treatment.
It’s hard when people can’t visibly see you are not well
When someone has their leg in plaster, you know they have injured their leg. If you see a cut on someone’s arm you assume they have bumped it to cause the cut. People with mental illness do not suffer less because it is not visible. A broken leg will heal with appropriate care and most people with mental illness will recover with appropriate treatment.
Thank goodness there is help available – you just have to ask. Just like there are heaps of people who break their leg or arm, there are a lot of people with depression and anxiety, so you are not alone.
Life can be complicated and sometimes things happen that either make us feel anxious or down. Everyone can experience feeling anxious or down but the severity varies. People can be mildly depressed or mildly anxious but they can still continue to function with their every day lives, going to school and/or working. It’s when your level of functioning is disrupted by your mental health that can impact on your ability to cope.
Some people become unwell and receive preventive treatment and recover and do not have repeated episodes. Early treatment is important in the early stages, to ensure appropriate care and support, so the illness can be managed appropriately. Other people require ongoing treatment where their illness is managed through the support of health professionals.
Quotes from Students aged 16 to 25 years
Here are some quotes that students from Hellyer College, Don College and Burnie and Devonport Campuses, North West Tasmania have said about mental illness:
- “It’s OK to have a mental illness – you didn’t ask for it and it’s not your fault you have ended up with one.”
- “Seeking help early helps – don’t put it off.”
- “You are not alone, there are people who love you and care about you and will support you.”
- “Mental illness is a normal occurrence and not the end of the world.”
- “There is someone there to help and who understands teenagers thinking.”
- “Medication doesn’t fix the illness or make you happy – it helps you to function”
- “You can change your psychologist or social worker (if you think they aren’t listening to you).”