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People are sharing their mental illness truths for Mental Health Awareness Month

Akio Takemoto/Flickr staceylou_blog/Twitter (CC-BY-SA) Remix by Samantha Grasso

#ThingsPeopleHaveSaidAboutMyMentalIllness exposes the ignorance and shame that still shroud mental health.

Mental illness often looks a lot different to outsiders than to the person living with it. “Why can’t they just get over it?” “C’mon, they’re just sad, and they don’t have anything to be sad about.” “It’s all in their head, really.”

These are just a few of the insensitive, misinformed critiques that people who don’t live with mental illness have about those who do. They’re phrases that not only discount the person living with mental illness, but also derail the effort to normalize and effectively talk about mental health.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2009 and 2012, 8 percent of surveyed Americans over age 12 lived with depression, one of the most common mental illnesses, with 3 percent of Americans living with depression reporting severe symptoms. However, 65 percent of people with severe symptoms of depression weren’t receiving treatment, something that might be seen as more societally acceptable to seek out if we improved how we spoke about mental health.

Across Twitter, people living with mental illness are sharing their own stories of being shamed into silence by their diagnosis. Using the hashtag #ThingsPeopleHaveSaidAboutMyMentalIllness, started by U.K. reporter Hattie Gladwell, people are not only discussing their diagnosis, but are also attacking misconceptions about mental illness by showcasing the ignorant phrases they’ve been told.

For Gladwell, she was told that she didn’t need medication, but motivation to “cope” with her mental health.

There are the common “just get over it” and “just snap out of it” responses, said by people who don’t understand what its like to not be 100 percent in control.

Others think their solutions such as “thinking positive thoughts” and “going for walks” will help people with mental illness become completely “cured,” when diagnoses like chronic depression and anxiety are not something you can simply shake off.

Then there are the people who think that undermining someone’s struggle with living with mental illness with the reasoning “everyone goes through this” is at all comforting. In reality, it feels like a justification urging someone to stop talking about their struggles at all.

https://twitter.com/DebAdadj71/status/993414399330340864

There are people who think that mental illness is being used as an excuse to bail, or as a justification for “not trying.” Again, it’s as if all people with mental illnesses have to do is think positively and their “problems” will go away.

And there are people who think that being well-off in life doesn’t give people with mental illness anything to be “sad” about, as if mental illness is monetary-based.

There are the people who don’t understand suicidality nor suicidal ideations.

And don’t forget people who think that telling someone with mental illness that their diagnosis is something to be coveted or desired.

Regardless of which mental illness posters of the hashtag were diagnosed with, these false rationalizations undermine the work done to make discussing mental illness more acceptable, and in turn, make seeking diagnosis and treatment of mental illness more acceptable as well.

For many, the hashtag showed people with mental illness that they aren’t alone in hearing ignorant, harmful statements and that others are pushing against this negative current, too.

If you are a teen dealing with depression or other mental health issues, see PBS.org for a list of resources and organizations that can help you. If you are an adult, see Mental Health Resources.

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.