Breaking the Stigma: What you Can Do
One of my most well-kept secrets for a long time has been that I was hospitalized for my mental health. I was hospitalized for two weeks, and then in partial hospitalization at another location for four weeks. As a year out of the hospital is quickly approaching, I am taking time to think about this experience, and why I was so embarrassed to share it with others.
One thing I have learned is that although being hospitalized for medical reasons versus mental health reasons should not be all that different, they are treated as such. There is no stigma around me saying, for instance that I have spent time in the hospital in the past for seizures. But there seems to be a stigma around me saying I was hospitalized for my depression.
My goal for this semester was to be more open and honest about this part of my life, since breaking the stigma starts with each and every one of us. It is okay not to feel comfortable sharing your story with others, but I have found that it really helps. When I tell people that, despite having been at school here for almost two and a half semesters I barely have 20 credits, I have begun to follow it up with the full explanation of why. The response has been amazing. I have had many people who (very unexpectedly) shared their own similar story, or that of a family member. I have also experienced a general outpouring of support and sense of caring from others.
These reactions have helped me recognize that there is so much more to me than this one part of my past, and these troubles that I have faced are more common than I think. I feel that I have also done my small part to break the stigma around mental health, and I have shown people that you never actually know what someone is going through. I challenge you, if you are comfortable, to share with others at least some parts of your difficulties with mental health. You may find that it helps you, and in the process, it helps them as well.
Have you ever opened up to anyone about your experiences with mental health? Has anyone every opened up to you?