Written by Addie Van Rijn
Firstly, I would like to say that I am so genuinely happy that people like you exist. I am so happy to hear that you have grown up in such an understanding and open environment that doesn't shy aware from talking about mental illness. It gives me hope that one day that whole world can be just as mental health positive.
Although the world may be becoming more mental health positive, the stigma that surrounds it is still alive and well.
It is important to remember that just because you do not experience something, does not mean that it doesn't exist. Speaking as someone who lives with mental illness, I can say that I have faced a lot of stigma when talking about my experiences. Just this past Christmas I had a family member tell me that my anxiety wasn't real- despite them witnessing it first hand throughout my lifetime. To this day when I talk about my history with self-injury I am met with judgment and a lot of quick conversation changes.
And this is the experience I have had as a young, white female.
I am speaking from the perspective of someone who, society-wise, faces the least amount of challenges when it comes to openly discussing my feelings. Sure, there is the overall stigma that exists, but there are so many other stigmas that people from other backgrounds and communities face. Don't get me wrong - if you are a white female who lives with mental illness, I still greatly encourage you to speak about it, because every time you do, no matter your background, you help end the stigma. That being said, if you are not white, if you are a male, if you are from a lower socio-economical class, if you work in the medical, education or a number of other fields - speaking out about your mental health struggles can be a hell of a lot harder.
We still live in a world where discrimination happens every day.
We still live in a world where people are shunned from their families for having mental health struggles. We are still living in a world where people lose their jobs because they live with mental illness. We still live in a world where people think living with an eating disorder is a "poor life choice" rather than our brains trying to kill us in the slowest and most painful way possible. We live in a world where people mourning the loss of a loved-one who died by suicide curse the deceased for their "selfish choice" rather than cursing their illness, or cursing the fact that their isn't enough resources to help those in need.
So, maybe stigma doesn't exist to you, but it exists nonetheless.
It's remarkable that you have had such a strong support system your whole life. It is great that you have not faced this kind of discrimination and it is super cool that you have never been afraid to speak up about your mental health, because for many of us, that's not the case. Despite the fact that you have never been afraid to talk about it, you are still courageous for doing so - because the more we talk about it, no matter who you are, we are one step closer to ending the stigma that surrounds mental health for good.