When we hear the word taboo, most of us know this relates to a scandalous topic that the general population does not want to talk about. Taboo is just that; a topic or practice that has long been forbidden or is uncomfortable for people to think and/or talk about.
Of all the taboo topics in the world I think mental illness wins first place for the longest running taboo subject of all time. We have evolved and come around in matters of sex, gender identity and homosexuality but mental illness……that’s still something most people would rather keep locked up in the dark taboo closet because it is just too uncomfortable to get in to.
Mental illness is not just the crazy killer type depicted in Hollywood movies or the crazy guy on the corner yelling at the air. Many times it something more miniscule like anxiety or depression. Just like back in the 80’s when people thought AIDS was spread by air or touch, mental illness suffers this same ignorance, this same mis-education of sorts.
Look around the room you are in, look around your neighborhood, look at your co-workers…..chances are at least one of the people you just scanned over has a mental illness. Surprised? Many sufferers are high functioning members of society but they are battling internal forces in the way their mind thinks, perceives and feels. This does not make them scary, this does not make them unpredictable, this does not make them less of a human being, it just makes them people who have struggles the rest of us do not understand.
That being said yes there are those with severe or disturbing levels of mental illness that can be a danger to themselves and society but that is not a blanket issue that applies to all mental illness but this is the one more people remember, this is the type that gets used as a stereotype across the board for those with mental illness.
People with mental illness suffer not only from their mental health issues but they also become victimized by a society that casts them out as unworthy or too much trouble to deal with. Society would sooner accept and openly talk about gays and abortion before they would mental illness.
People are always afraid of what they do not understand, that is human nature and our culture has been raised on the history of insane asylums and psycho killers in movies, books, and television. If there is no actual fact based education to combat what people see and hear about then how can such ignorance be replaced with knowledge?
I am not suggesting there is a one size fits all solution here and not that every person should rise up and become a beacon of representation and understanding for mental illness; it can be hard to know what to say and how to deal with people suffering from mental illness. And this post is not to suggest that we all run out and become experts and start working with the mentally ill. It is more about starting a conversation, thoughts, and awareness…..
It is ok to ask questions, it is ok to not know what to say, it is ok to be curious, it is even ok to be a little intimidated……what is not ok is to participate in the ignorance. Ask questions, read about it and most importantly remember that people with mental illness are people; human beings and they should not be made to feel ashamed, scared, or unworthy because their genetics and brain chemicals do not function as well as they should.
Mental illness is not contagious but ignorance and stigmatic behavior is so let’s do what we can to break the taboo here once and for all.
Make sure to visit me at The Truth Shall Set You Free So Don’t Be a Crybaby