Why is it that we have this idea in our minds of mental illness as this terrible phenomenon. I mean, yes mental illness sucks if you are going through it, but many people live totally normal lives despite their illnesses. I recently did a google image search of the term “mental illness” and the results depicted people crying, cut wrists, skinny women staring at their reflections, and people cradling their heads in the hands. The one thing that these images have in common is the fact that the overarching theme is sadness and despair. None of the pictures looked happy. On the contrary, all of these images illustrate mental illness in a very dark light.
So why is it that mental illness is depicted in this way? I think it has something to do with the very shallow understanding of mental illness that permeates society. Most people associate mental illness with sadness (not surprisingly) and so they might see the search results that I got on google as only natural. But the fact of the matter is that many people are living normal, happy lives alongside a mental illness. So why don’t my google search results illustrate happy, smiling people? There was not a single image of a person smiling or laughing in my search results. I feel like this is because most people only see the one side of mental illness and cannot look past this. But there is more to people than their mental illness. Just because a person is diagnosed with a mental illness this does not mean that the person is doomed to a life of misery for eternity. Sure, they may have their ups and downs, but who doesn’t?
What I’m trying to say here is that the conceptualization of people with mental illnesses as being sad and messed up all the time is only making the stigma around mental health worse. So, how do we fix this? We change the way we think about mental illness. That is why I am challenging YOU, my readers, to critically think about the way you conceptualize mental illness. When you think about mental illness, what images come to mind. Do you see someone sad and hurting? Or do you see a smiling person? We need to change the way we think about mental illness if we ever hope to end the stigma. We need to see the other side of mental illness. If not to end the stigma, then to give hope to those who are struggling. It is important that people know that there is hope for a happy future.
Please, rethink the way you conceptualize mental illness.