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Stamp out the Stigma

Dear world,

Monday 30th March, was World Bipolar Day. Let’s stamp out the stigma.

Mental health is not a new health concern. In the 19th century, neurologists and physicians started to explore its existence and prevalence. Jean-Martin Charcot, in fact, stressed that the laws of  mental illness are universal. In a world where our beliefs, cultures and experiences differentiate entirely, mental illness and bipolar is is something we all have in common.

The pain, distress and immovable desolation that mental illness causes is being felt today, and all days, all around the globe. With the worldwide prevalence rate of bipolar reaching 1.1% of the adult population alone, 51 million people are suffering with the disorder right now.

You’d think an illness of this magnitude would have eradicated its negative labels over the past two centuries, but worryingly this has not been the case. ‘Hysteria’ was first used to describe a person suffering with mental illness and today, these negative labels have expanded ten-fold. Whether I’m crazy, nuts, mental, weird, a loose cannon, unstable or a freak, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as research shows there are 250 different labels used to stigmatise people with mental illness.

Well let’s replace these with positive and undeniably honest labels that reflect those with it accurately: strong, a fighter, determined, persistent, necessary and above all, valued.

In a generation of want-it-alls, society projects strength in images of absolute perfection, material accomplishments and normality. The irony, I have found, is that some of the most inspiring, motivational, strong and successful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting are sufferers of mental illness. And yet, in our own minds, we never consider ourselves to be one of these.

I propose that starting from today, we view this illness a little differently. We don’t pre-judge those who have something so complex and so very real that we push them further into the depths of fear, embarrassment and shame. And for those of us with it, we value and pride ourselves on the fact that we’re fighting, we’re speaking up and we’re working towards a world without stigma.

Yours sincerely,

Mentally ill and proud

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