Two things are going to become clear in this blog post: my taste in music and that there are songs that remind us that it's okay not to be okay. Realistically, "It's okay not to be okay" is probably a statement you've heard repeatedly in the world of mental health awareness and advocacy. As potentially overused as it is, this sentiment is an important one when combatting mental health stigma.
Surviving Mental Health Stigma
I'll start off by saying that I don't believe suicide is a selfish act. This opinion comes from living with suicidal ideation since before I even knew there was a term for it. For the sake of this blog post, however, I want to explore the opposite. Is suicide selfish? So what if it is? (Note: This post contains a content warning.)
Confession time: I feel like a burden because of my mental illnesses. It's perhaps ironic I've previously written about how mental health stigma makes talking about mental illness feel like a confession, and, now, here I am—confessing. I've never said the words aloud, but feeling like a burden is pretty regular for me, and I don't think people would expect it. So, yes, this feels like a confession. And I'm also questioning if this is self-stigma or reality.
Arguably one of the most common forms of mental health stigma is the fact that mental toughness is valued over mental wellness. Think of all the times we're told to get over mental health struggles or toughen up to get through them. This pervasive stigma doesn't necessarily deny mental struggles; it just says we need to be tougher when it comes to the challenges brought on by them.
I feel as though people like to think about incidents of mental health stigma as little pockets in time, but really, they live beyond the moments they happen. These are not compartmentalized or filed away. We know stigma can have negative impacts on a person, but understanding the depth of those impacts starts with understanding how long that moment of stigma can exist for a person.
No matter how many conversations are had or how many awareness efforts take place when it comes to suicide prevention, it seems society doesn't know how to make a positive difference. I get it. Death is a hard thing for people in general, and suicide grates harder against that. I'm here to share some dos and don'ts for suicide prevention that can help. (Note: This post has a content warning.)
Britney Spears' conservatorship has been a hot topic since she was able to say her piece in court on June 23. It's caused fans to rally behind her, supporting her as she struggles with being under other peoples' control for more than a decade and the impact that's had on her mental wellbeing. Perhaps ironically, it was a mental health crisis that kicked off the conservatorship, to begin with. I can't help but wonder, what has been mental health stigma's role in keeping that conservatorship in place?
Recent events in tennis have highlighted mental health stigma in sports and mental health struggles in sports in general. I'll be honest; I don't follow sports—neither the actual games/matches/events nor the athletes—but the controversy with tennis player Naomi Osaka bowing out of the French Open due to backlash over her mental health self-care decision caught my attention.
As someone with skin picking disorder, summer was always a time of dread. It was as if the warm weather grew stigma the same way it could grow plants. Guidance during those days of my life would have been great for handling fear and shame, and a short summer guide to surviving skin picking disorder stigma is exactly what I'd like to offer now.
It's always nice to see folks speaking up in the name of mental health awareness. Continuing the conversation about mental health and mental illness is one of the key things we can do when combatting mental health stigma, but it's important to communicate in these situations effectively. I'd like to use what happened with Demi Lovato and a small frozen yogurt business as a starting point and example for this conversation.