Stigma

Stigma: 'A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person: "the stigma of mental disorder"'

If there's a word you can think of when mentioning mental health, it is definitely stigma. In fact, this is the main issue when looking at mental health. Many people are really scared of saying anything about their mental health incase they will be judged. This often leads people to danger.

Firstly, there are laws out there which protect people from discrimination, such as the laws about mental health that can be applied in the workplace. However, as you might as well know they aren't always followed. So what else is there? These laws are there for your safety and protection and if you feel you are being mistreated  you can always take it to a tribunal. No one is allowed to make you feel worthless, especially in the eyes of the law.

Secondly, there are many organisations out there that are trying to get rid of mental health as a 'taboo' subject. The most important campaign is 'Time To Change'. You may have seen the adverts on the TV and videos on YouTube, which I advise you check out if you haven't already. There is also a pledge wall which I have signed, along with stories and how you can help - even more resources to make you realise that you are not alone! Anxiety UK, is a great charity too along with childline. But if we're looking at stigma, then 'Time To Change' is the one to look at. 

Stigma is a massive issue when it comes to mental illness. I have had great issues when trying to explain my anxiety and people either not listening, not thinking it's a big deal and just brushing it off as if they don't have to care. But, generally people have been supportive.

Family
In terms of my family, they have been very accepting. They haven't punished me for it, or been ashamed of me. I think this is because I have a very good relationship with my family, but also there are others in the family which suffer from mental illness too. They also saw me suffer before their eyes. With anxiety, it's hard to hide anything. I never really told them; I guess they just knew and/or found out. When they did find out, they didn't treat me any differently. However, there are some members of my family which struggle to understand, which can be aggravating. However without them, I have no idea what I'd do. They have literally saved me and I can never thank them enough for it. Whatever you do, you must talk.

Friends
Through my anxiety, I have realised who my true friends are. I have had some friends who I never thought would help me out, but they have been the best. Most have been supportive. They've talked to me about it for hours, sent me school work and helped me in any which way they can. However, I have only told very few of my friends. I hate to say the reason why, but I guess it's because of the stigma. I'm worried about what they will think and if they will tell others. I've also had many people ask me why I've been off so much from school, but I just tend to reply with 'I have a few problems' or 'just because' or 'when I'm better I will explain' I think it's such a sensitive subject, and I rather keep it close.

Teachers
I never thought my teachers would be so helpful. My Mum and Grandma sent the school cards!  I expect, most if not all of the teachers don't understand my situation and they could easily just say I couldn't be bothered or remove me from the school, but they have been amazing and I can't thank them enough. Whether you like school or not, your teachers will have an impact on you for the rest of you life and you must understand that they are there to help you. If you feel you can't talk to your parents, then talk to your teachers. My teachers have been wonderful by organizing separate rooms for my exams, sending work home, calling me, checking if i'm okay in lessons; the list is endless! The thing I've been most grateful for is that they've talked to me. At the end of lessons they've asked how I am, that they're here if I need to talk and so on. One of my teachers even spoke to me about the stigma. He said 'This first thing you think people are going to think of you is crazy, but that's not true at all.' 

What I'm trying to say, is that yes there will be stigma and it definitely hurts because you know that you cannot help it. But the thing is, it's because people don't understand and this is why I'd really like it to be taught in schools and the workplace. But you have to understand that you are bigger and better than anything anyone can say to you, and you've got this. If I can do it, so can you. I've been to darkest places of life, and I'm slowly getting there. So don't give up, and don't listen to the rubbish people reel out. It is extremely painful and angers you immensely when people say inconsiderate things about your health, but understand you are stronger. Secondly, I know you may be worried about the stigma if you talk about your health, but believe me it's not as bad as you think; there are people out there to support you and it's never as bad as you presume, just look at the support I have had! Yes there have been a few people that have decided to say something, but you're better than that. Do not let the stigma worsen your condition  You must speak to someone, whether it be your family, teachers, friends, or even me. You will be better off with the support.

Amy x