I’ve always thought that if you have a shared experience, you will be more understanding and compassionate to those around you.
Yet lately I find myself giving out a double standard. Especially when it comes to employment. I have many people in my life who live with a mental illness. Some are employed full-time, and some are 100% dependent on government assistance.
I have found myself making excuses for one friend and not another. “Well his illness is more severe than hers.” Or other similar thoughts.
Is there a line in severity? I’ve read pieces in the past that refer to “severe mental illness.” What makes an illness severe? That the person’s life is affected in more ways than one? That they are unable to work or perhaps have difficulty maintaining relationships?
Are all mental illnesses equal?
The truth is, yes they are. Just as we tell those living outside the mental health world that mental illness is just as serious as diabetes or cancer, within the mental health world all disorders are serious.
And not everyone can handle them the same.
You may be a person living with bipolar who works full-time and is married with children, looking at someone with depression wondering why they can’t fight through it like you did. Or perhaps you look at a more “severe” disorder like schizophrenia or schizoaffective and think that you are capable of more because your illness isn’t as harsh.
I’m not the only one whose thoughts occasionally go the wrong way, giving credit to some and taking it away from others. In speaking to those outside of the mental health world, I find myself speaking out and “fighting stigma” but encounter a significant amount of stigma in the mental health world itself.
We must all continue to speak for equality and reduce the stigma of mental health – externally AND internally.
Two people may have the same disorder, but like snowflakes which are all made of the same thing – no two are identical no matter how similar they may appear.