As a mental health advocate and experiencer, I am committed to quashing the stigma still attached to having a “mental illness”, and I actively encourage individuals to embrace their mental health and speak freely about their experiences. After triumphing over adversity, I am familiar with the positives that can come out of a bad situation, and therefore I am enthusiastic about sharing this new outlook with others.
However, since creating WarriorKind and encouraging individuals to adopt this approach I have come across one commonly used phrase:
“I want to share my story about my mental health experience, but I’m afraid of the stigma or a negative reaction”
I would like to share some advice for those of you who are afraid to reach out, or afraid to speak openly.
By fearing a negative reaction, you are essentially contributing toward the stigma. I know that sounds harsh but think about it this way, each time you worry about trolls, or negative feedback, or people judging you, you are feeding the stigma by allowing their negative mindset to control how you approach your mental health.
I was in denial when my anxiety really started to consume me, I have health anxiety so you can imagine the jokes at my expense. I was embarrassed to begin with, humiliated and ashamed. There was absolutely no way I was going to share my mental health experiences publicly and admit that I had an issue. But after losing my Dad to mental illness related alcoholism I realised that society had let him down. Suddenly I became aware that my Dad drank because he was too ashamed to seek support for his mental health, he was too embarrassed to admit he was struggling to cope emotionally because he was too worried about what people would think of him. (You can probably guess where my inspiration came from to found warriorKind).
I would spend a good year justifying his cause of death to people, he was depressed, he was anxious and that is why he drank. But then one day everything just clicked and fell into place, I should not need to justify anything, by doing so I was just feeding the negative thought processes. I learnt very quickly that those with the assumption that having a mental “illness” is a weakness, are the ones that really need educating. I am a well- rounded individual who has experienced a lot in my short life, and I am open minded and educated enough to understand that mental illness is not a weakness it is a strength. It is a daily battle and I am a warrior.
I now confidently embrace my mental health and I am not ashamed of it. I speak openly and freely about it. I have triumphed over adversity and took control over the way I handled my Dads death. I now believe that if my Dad had not died the way he did then I would not be the woman I am today. Strong, open minded, passionate, and determined. My Dads death had a positive impact on me, he died to save me and others, WarriorKind is his legacy.
So, I urge you all to not feed the stigma by staying silent and not seeking support. Do not let other people’s ignorance influence how you deal with your mental health. Yes, I appreciate it is a sensitive subject and not everyone wishes to discuss things so personal. But equally do not let it define how you feel about yourself.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and it is about time we stand united and confidently unafraid of discrimination and stigma.