Bipolar and Stigma: We are not dangerous
We are not dangerous. We are friends, neighbors, family and coworkers. We are stars and other notable people such as Carrie Fisher and Robin Williams and most of us function well in this life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health 18.1% of population in the United States or 43 million Americans live with mental illness. I am one of them.
I have bipolar disorder. I have suffered from the stigma. I have faced discrimination in personal, work and business life. I have been the one hiding in the shadows and suffering in silence because of the stigma of my bipolar disorder and severe anxiety disorder.
Those of us with bipolar disorder have been the ones at family functions who stand in the corner praying that no one come up and talks to us. If someone does, we respond with one word answers hoping to make the contact as short as possible. We dare not meet their glance for we know that if they looked our eyes they would see into our soul and the suffering and emptiness inside.
We have been the ones who thought we could talk about our mental illness with old friends and have them accept us only to have them disappear from our lives.
We have been the ones who experienced the lost years of living in the depths of our bipolar and anxiety.
And we have been the ones to come out the other side inspiring many and offering help and hope.
There are a lot of good things to say about the 43 million of us with a mental illness. Unfortunately we only hear about mental illness is if someone commits a crime, if someone has an embarrassing breakdown or if someone famous dies.
The stigma against bipolar disorder and mental illnesses is fueled by fear. People who we tell that we are bipolar think about only the few who we hear about on the news.
It is time to change the conversation. It is time to work together. Many, many people and organizations are trying to break the stigma. It is time to join together and send a unified message.
That message is that we are not dangerous. We are regular people. We are family and friends, coworkers and neighbors, teachers and students. We are actors, comics, writers and creators. And even if someone is getting treated for mental illness, the mental illness has nothing to do with the circumstances.
It is true that folks with mental illness commit crimes. And too many of these crimes are sensational and horrific. But in thousands of stories about crime one of the first questions the police and media ask is, is this person mentally ill?
Many times there is conjecture, and this conjecture is reported in the news as fact. Even if a person has bipolar disorder it has nothing to do with the crime.
We need to say this over and over. Folks with a mental illness who can make a difference with the stigma and discrimination need to speak up. People in the criminal justice system need to say this. People in the media need to say this. And government needs to send this message.
I see public service announcements that say that a particular television network cares. That is nice, but it is not enough.
Our message will drive the perception change. Our message will make it ok for someone to say I have a mental illness. Our message will make it ok to get treatment. Our message will make the biggest difference for the 43 million of us with a mental illness and the other 220 million people in our country who don’t.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community