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This essay won second place in our High School Essay Contest this year.
No one would ever say, “It is just cancer. Get over it.” So why does society stigmatize people who suffer from mental illness? How come when people have a mental illness, society perceives them as if they are monsters? Why can every other organ in the body get sick and receive sympathy except for the brain?
One in four people suffer from mental illness. I am the one in four.
This essay tied for third place in our High School Essay Contest this year.
I live in Jamaica, a country rich with diverse ethnicities, personalities, and beliefs. As unique as the people of my country are, we all have one commonality, and that is the stigmatization of persons with mental disorders.
As far as I’m concerned this week is the best week of the year. It’s not only Mental Illness Awareness Week, but here in Australia it’s Mental Health Week. Although mental health promotion and awareness of mental illness should be continuous throughout the year (not only during one week), now’s one of the best times to start talking about it.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was in shock. I had no idea about mental illness or mania or psychosis. I had no idea that my brain could be responsible for altering my reality, for making me think certain thoughts, or for making me feel sad when there was no apparent reason. Up until that point, I took reality for granted, as if it were as constant as gravity. But in an instant, sanity became a precious commodity.
Mental Illness Awareness Week is the first full week of October. This year, we ask our volunteers what mental illness awareness means to them. Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Mental Illness Awareness means recognizing that mental illness is as real as any physical illness.” – Clarice Andrade
This is Mental Health Awareness Week, and as a minister who has bipolar disorder, I am aware that churches tend to be filled with silence not awareness. One of my passions is helping churches become more aware of mental health issues and know that recovery is possible. A great deal of stigma stems from the church which once (and some still do) thought it was a form of demon possession and that reading the Bible more and praying would take care of the problem. Heaven forbid a person take a medication or see a therapist! (I have found both really helpful.)
Awareness for mental illness is so important because of the stigma attached to it. When I had told a former friend that I have bipolar disorder, she jumped back and yelled, “Don’t attack me!” Seriously? I’ve never attacked anyone in my life.
According to a Baylor study, more people with a mental illness seek help from clergy than from mental health professionals. This concerns me for two reasons. First, clergy learn very little about mental illness when they go to seminary. Second, like the general public, churches don’t generally talk about mental illness and aren’t really supportive. Even in the church which I attend and am an elder, there is a great deal of silence and awkwardness even though it is a very caring