As part of the World Mental Health Day Blog Party, I wanted to take a moment to talk about stigma, and also provide a little math lesson.
I’ve said it before, but the thing that allows society to stigmatize anyone is when the people involved are simply the other. Once we identify another group of human beings as “those people”, we simply no longer see them as human, and therefore we lose all sense of empathy, or positive feelings at all about them. They are non-entities.
When it comes to mental health issues, we see this all the time, with comments about people being off their meds, or how we shouldn’t get involved with crazy people, and so on. For one, we should never see another human being as a non-entity, but it happens, it’s how we convince ourselves that these awful things couldn’t happen to us, because we aren’t one of those people. But one serious look at the statistics involved shows us how ridiculous that really is.
It’s estimated that 10% of all Americans have dealt with depression at some point, and perhaps as many as 18% with anxiety disorders of some sort. Think about that for a second. Then take a look around your home or office. Take a minute to calculate how many people are in your immediate family. How about your extended family? How many cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and so on? Now go back and read those statistics.
Mental health issues are not affecting “those people”, they are affecting a significant number of people you know and love. Most of whom are probably too ashamed to admit it, or seek the help they need, because the people they should turn to for help and support, are too busy talking about “those people”, instead of looking for the signs of depression right in front of them.
Please, take a moment to think about the people around you, and understand that many of them may just be struggling with their own mental health issues. Be a source of support, love and acceptance, not stigmatization.