Despite it being 2015, the perception of mental illness can sometimes make me feel like we’re in the Dark Ages. The stigma that people can face when they say they have a mental illness is ridiculous in this day and age, made worse when words like “mental” and “crazy” are still acceptable words to call someone when you’re looking to insult them, and then the media prints headlines like this… 

Daily Mail

and this…

The Sun

The Germanwings crash was an absolute tragedy, with innocent lives lost, families grieving and the world still in shock. But rather than letting people mourn, the media had a field day when they found out the co-pilot could have done it on purpose and that he had a history of depression. They started to speculate about his mental health, made stigmatising sweeping statements, used words like “madman” and “unhinged” and questioned why he was even working( which was when I really lost my temper.) When the media are promoting the idea that people with mental illness can’t work, then we are in serious trouble.

Luckily I wasn’t the only one that was frustrated and upset by the media’s coverage, with Mind and Time to Change in particular all condemning the coverage and it’s simplistic attitudes.

As someone who suffers from a form of mental illness myself (depression and anxiety) I wish I could say this was the first time this sort of thing has happened, but I can’t….

Mental health on TV

Last year on the X Factor, one theme was Halloween. Of course there was the usual “Monster Mash” and “Bat out of Hell” But they also sang “Crazy” and “Mad World”.

I felt they’d only been picked because of the titles, and the idea of Halloween was scary, so “crazy” and “mad” were linked because they were scary too. Ok I might have been looking too much into it at the time, but I knew I wasn’t the only person who felt mildly offended that week. Yet no one really batted an eyelid. This actually annoyed me even more, that it was considered normal, it just felt wrong.

For years, TV and films have painted people with mental illnesses as crazy, psychotic, dangerous and well, “mental”. Honest adaptations about mental health are rare, and when they get them right they are beautiful, educational and make people feel less alone. But these productions are so rare, because painting mentally ill people in a negative way has been the norm for so long, we’ve forgotten mental health is an actual issue, and not something made up by Hollywood.

Mental health in life

Stand up to stigma

It’s disgusting that this sort of attitude still exists, especially when there is so much more information at on mental health these days. For example, did you know that 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year? Or that 1 in 5 adults have depression? Surely stigmatising something so common is just ridiculous? It just makes it harder for people to ask for help, so the problem gets worse.

I’ve experienced negative attitudes toward my depression and anxiety. My mum doesn’t believe depression is a thing, my boss tip toes around me and sent me on forced leave because he thought it was “best for me” and one close friend continues to tell me I’m doing it for attention.

And some of my friends have been through the same thing, including one who says he hides his depression because telling people never leads to anything good. Hell, even I asked for my name to be removed from this post because I don’t want certain people knowing.

Why are people with mental illness being made to feel like this? Why is being brave enough to live with a mental illness seen as such a negative thing? Why is being confident enough to shout you have a mental illness such a terrible thing? Why are we still fighting the image of being crazy people who could go on a rampage at any moment? Seriously? I personally fight to get myself out of bed every morning, I think you’re safe. In fact Time To Change said that the vast majority of people with mental health problems are of no danger to anyone, and that they are more likely to be victims of violence than the perpetrators!

Luckily, with the help of amazing charities like MIND and Time to Change, perceptions are slowly changing, but it’s the medias job to provide just the facts and not to add a layer upon layer of stigma. Overcoming mental illness is hard enough thank you.

A message

To those who wish to accept the stigma and tell me I’m crazy or just an attention seeker, I say to you, I am not my mental illness, I am not defined by it. I can do everything you can do, and more. I am more than capable of working, in fact I’m going to be your boss someday. I am stronger for my depression, not weaker. Fuck you.

And for those of you that suffer with a mental illness, ignore the twats, you’re braver than that, stronger than that, and just bloody ace.

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