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Surviving Mental Health Stigma

My name is Juliet Jack, and I am thrilled to be joining the HealthyPlace community as a "Surviving Mental Health Stigma blog" writer. I am a 21-year-old recent college graduate born in Washington D.C. I am grateful to have this platform to share, discover and learn more about navigating mental health stigma together. This blog is a safe place for anyone suffering from mental health issues. You are not alone in facing the stigma surrounding mental health, and even in 2021, there is so much more work to be done to combat this detrimental stigma. Let us be a part of the solution and work to both educate others and discover efficient coping mechanisms as we continue to validate our individual feelings, experiences. and diagnoses.
I’m struggling with my mental health. It’s such a simple sentence, but it’s a hard one for me to write. I’m already thinking of ways I might rephrase or rewrite this. Usually, I skirt around it, and I don’t think I’ve ever outright actualized it like this. If I have, it’s a rarity. Rarity or not, the truth is that things are not great at the moment. Depression and anxiety are weighing heavily, and it’s hard to function.
Death is hard for many people to understand, and feelings about it can be extremely challenging to put into words. When it comes to death by suicide, the challenge seems to become even greater. Think of all the ways you’ve heard suicide spoken about; unfortunately, a lot of it results in stigma and ignoring pain. (Note: This post contains a content warning.)
Have you ever wondered if relatability has anything to do with mental health stigma? I haven’t until recently. Now that it’s entered my mind, I can’t help but wonder how much of a role that might play in decreasing stigma and maybe even perpetuating it.
"Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog" — that’s the name of this blog full of tips and advice to get through moments of stigma, overcome it, and so on. Often, that’s how I approach writing for this blog: what tips can I share? What have I gone through that might be useful to others? But then it struck me. Dealing with mental health stigma can quite literally be an act of survival. It’s not hyperbole. It’s not dramatics. Mental health stigma could literally lead to someone dying. I’ll elaborate. (Note: this post contains a content warning.)
Among tinsel and twinkling lights and cheer, it’s not something people want to hear, but it’s true: the holidays negatively impact my mental health. Whereas others find cheer in the music and gift-wrapping, I find discomfort, anxiety, and darkness. The even more difficult thing is there’s really no safe, stigma-free space to talk about it.
Memes are pretty much a staple of the Internet. I’m sure even those who carefully curate their social media feeds have memes scattered about in posts from those they follow. As funny and relatable as they can be, what role do they have in stigmatizing mental health?
Canada has a new government position: Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. It's raising many conversations and many questions. However, the question I’m most interested in is what can the government, through this minister, do to stop, or at least address, mental health stigma? Can it do anything?
I wear two rings that I fidget with. One is a spinner ring designed for fidgetting; the other is a ring that's actually three interlocking rings which just happens to be good for fidgeting. I've always enjoyed wearing rings, even to the point that, in high school and early university, I wore rings on nearly every finger. Back then, it was more aesthetic-driven, but I've realized that wearing rings I can fidget with helps my anxiety.
Many workplaces say their employees' mental wellbeing matters, but not all workplaces are built the same. Some promote mental wellness but don't deliver, whereas others do. With starting a new job, I feel for the first time like I'm someplace where my workplace actually cares about mental wellness.