It’s 2018 and mental health awareness is on the rise, but with awareness of various mental health problems (like BPD, Depersonalisation and PTSD) unfortunately also generates even more stigmas in a society who claims they understand. There have been countless amounts of times I have searched for more information on BPD, especially when I was first diagnosed, and found articles telling me that people with Borderline Personality Disorder are violent, we are narcissists, don’t care about others and are generally the kinds of people you want to stay well clear of. I’m sure some people with Borderline may express these traits, however, it is unfair to label everyone with the same mental illness in the same way, as everyone suffers differently.
Stigmas, I feel, are the main reason many people do not feel comfortable about talking about their mental health, leading to so many saying ‘I’m okay’ when inside they’re far from it. The stigmas made me feel like I wasn’t allowed to feel depressed when I was 14 years old and first realised something wasn’t right. I felt like I had to act happy and okay especially in school, where I was already labelled one of the weird kids. I felt like I couldn’t tell my own mother about how I was feeling, and wrote countless amounts of letters I never gave to her explaining how I felt and that I thought I was depressed; in the end it took me around 8-12 months to actually tell her what was going on. I thought it was normal to feel the way I did because of the stress of GCSEs, nobody told me what depression really was before that.
As I moved on to college, I started to self harm. This is when the real stigma set in. I was accused of attention seeking if anyone caught a glimpse of my scars, I hid the marks from my dad, and my mum couldn’t get her head around why I did it. Even years later, extended family members see the scars on my wrist and make huge scenes about it. One I will never forget; I was in my tiny town on market day, a day where you’re bound to see everyone you know. It was a blazing hot day and I was wearing a sleeveless dress when I bumped into my highly conservative aunt. She decided to make a huge scene about the scars she had never seen before, shouting and laughing about something she didn’t understand. I felt so humiliated but to an extent, I understand that she only reacted that way because she had only seem dramatisations of self harm which honestly are not done well, ever.
Still to this day, I face stigmas due to my mental health and I think the only way to overcome this as a global society is education. In school, I don’t remember learning about mental health at all. My younger sister learned about depression and anxiety during her time in year 8 (which is 12-13 years old for all my international readers), but this isn’t enough. If we don’t teach school aged young people about various mental illnesses, the stigmas will continue long into their adulthood. I understand it would be impossible to teach young people about every single mental illness, but whilst they are probably the most common illnesses, there are many more than just depression and anxiety. It is a shame that these illnesses are only taught about if a student elects to study psychology, even then, that might not be until a student is 16 or over.
If we can eradicate stigmas at a younger age, we may be able to erase them completely and put mental health on par with physical health. It may also solve some other problems faced by the mental health support systems, in that more people would be willing to become psychologists, therapists and even support workers for mental health charities. Ending stigmas could change the world; but it starts with all of us.