60 million people in the United States suffer from a mental illness and most of them try to hide it. Why? For the fear of being called c-r-a-z-y. This is the effect stigma has had on mental illness.
There seems to be a high price to pay in admitting that you have a mental illness. Many choose not to tell their employers in fear of getting fired. Is that legal? No. Yet, it still happens. I’m guilty of not letting my employer know. But I valued my job more than I valued the understanding of my co-workers. Of course I wish that I could disclose that with my employer. The relief in not having to conceal that part of me would be tremendous. However, the threat still looms of being terminated.
There’s a constant vicious cycle. Stigma causes one to hide or be dishonest about their mental illness, that leads to shame, which turns around and adds fuel to the stigma fire. We all love it when someone fights stigma by talking about it. That takes a lot of courage. But how many people are going to stand up when the bad outcomes outweigh the good?
Those with a mental illness are not broken, flawed people with weak characters. In reality, they have unique strengths. They have survived all the woes of their illness and have come out the other side a better person. They have become resilient and have overcome adversity. That should be what comes to ones mind when they think of someone with a mental illness. But that’s not how it is. Now that’s a shame…