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Educate yourself and others - Knowledge is Power

This page created 2006
By Jess              

How often do we tell people that we are “fine” when really we are not?

Is there a sense of shame attached to not being “fine”? Are we really risking negative evaluation if we are honest?

Why are we so reluctant to open up and get help?

Anxiety Disorders and Depression are very hard topics to talk about, because often unless someone tells you that they suffer from one or both of these conditions you would probably never know.

There is a stigma of shame attached to saying “I have a mental illness”.  This needs to change, and it starts with education.  A lot of people do not know what Mental Illness really is.  Many people have associated some incorrect stereotypical ideas with Mental Illness which is unfortunately reinforced by a less than understanding media industry.

Many sufferers find it hard to speak out about their experiences.  In order to break down prejudices and re-educate the public, open and honest dialogue is important. I for one would like to go and talk to kids about mental illness to show them that I'm actually a normal young woman whose life experiences many people could probably relate to.

Because of the fact that mental illness is so easy to hide and attracts such a negative stigma, many people turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their Anxiety or Depression. Teenagers are extremely vulnerable to this, especially because growing into adulthood is a hard time when it seems so important to “fit in”.

Sadly I also believe that people who self mutilate do it, not only as a cry for help, but to seek a physical representation of their pain. People on the “outside” cannot see the pain that the sufferer feels inside, but may finally realise something is very wrong when they see evidence of self-harm. Sadly this will be the desperate outcome from someone who has hidden their problems for a long time.

The way Mental Illness is portrayed in the media often does not help the cause. In fictional television programs, mental illness is often associated with violence, crime and erratic behaviour. We need to realise that the media often sensationalizes and exaggerates stories.

Often when a Mental Illness is reported in the media it is done without letting people know where to get help and what the symptoms of mental illness may be.  I believe that this is fundamentally wrong, and irresponsible journalism. We need to get the message out to the public that mental health is a huge issue that is in our society whether we like it or not and that sufferers need help and understanding.

I believe that Mental health should be taught in schools in the same way Maths and Physical education are.  Mental health is extremely important and we need to let kids understand this. Why are we taught what we achieve, and even the way we look is more important than the way we feel?
The younger the age we get children to open up about what they are feeling about their fears, problems and the day to day pressures of dealing with what is expected of them, the more likely it is that we can break the terrible habit that we humans have of pretending we are “fine”.

Speaking personally, even though deep down I knew something was wrong right through my childhood and adolescence, it wasn't until I finally had an emotional breakdown at 23 that it gave me the shock that no, everything was not “fine”, it was far from fine. I had to break out of my denial and get help. Like many terrible things that people struggle with, my experience with Anxiety and Depression came as a blessing in disguise.  I was given the opportunity to learn and change for the better.

If you are a sufferer of Anxiety or Depression or have a loved one who is struggling, please take the time to learn as much as you can so that you can make well informed decisions about how to handle mental illness and get the support you need.

I talked to a close friend today, and told her about what I had been through over the past three years. It was scary at first, admitting that I have a Mental Illness, but she told me how brave I was to talk about it and how sorry she was that I'd had to go through it without her support. Surprisingly too, she said she had another friend whom had bad problems with anxiety. All the time I spent worrying about the fear of her negative evaluation was misguided.

The best thing you can do is to share your pain with a loved one, friend or counselor.   Personally, I am hoping for a future where we can keep the communication lines open in regards to Anxiety and Depression.

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