Monday, October 3, 2011

On Stigma and Mean Girls

My darling readers.

I am a member of UR’s chapter of Active Minds, a national organization that seeks to reduce the stigma against mental illness and promote more mentally healthy campuses around the country. (Actually, I’m the co-president of the chapter, but that’s really not important).
What is important is that today is October 3rd.

Now, for Mean Girls fans out there, the fact that it’s October 3rd is important because it’s the day that Aaron Samuels will ask what day it is. It’s October 3rd.

On the other hand, the reason October 3rd matters in the context of Active Minds revolves around the fact that today is the National Day Without Stigma.

50 million people suffer from a mental illness every year (1 in 4), and of those who suffer, only 25% will seek treatment or therapy of some form. This all comes back to the stigma against mental illness. People who suffer from a mental health problem or mental health disorder are seen as “crazy,” and because people think they’re crazy, it prevents them from wanting to seek help.

1 in 4 people means that you probably have friends, family, coworkers, teachers, and peers who are suffering without your knowledge. And the persisting stigma against mental illness will prevent 75% of these people, people you care about, from seeking help because they worry that people will judge them. People worry that seeking mental help will prevent them from getting jobs, getting into good schools, forming personal relationships, or being respected. And it all comes back to stigma. People shouldn’t have to worry what people will think of them for seeking treatment for their mental illness, or even for having one. They should worry about learning to manage it so they can live happy and successful lives.

Today, as a national organization, we come together to spread awareness and fight the stigma. But one day’s worth of advocacy isn’t the solution. Every day, we, as a society, need to work towards making people feel safer, advocating self-awareness and treatment, and being good friends to the people we care about, particularly if they have the courage to admit they’re suffering.

Lovingly yours,
Rachel Leigh

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