I was handcuffed a couple of years ago. Policemen threw me to the ground violently and handcuffed me as if I were a criminal. But I was not committing a crime; I was experiencing a manic episode of Bipolar I Disorder – I was mentally ill.
There is a lot of misinformation surrounding mental health. Much of society believes that people with mental illness have violent tendencies, but the reality is that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than they are to be violent themselves, as is evident in the situation described above. The percentage of violence among the mentally ill is very small, and most violent people do not actually suffer from mental illness.
Unfortunately a lot of people learn about mental health through the media, so the above facts may be surprising to many. With the exception of Robin Williams’ recent death, the media only talks about mental health when a psychopath does something terrible, so it is no wonder society believes people with mental illness are violent!
Facts about mental health should be common knowledge, but they are not because there is still so much stigma surrounding the matter. I mean, why learn about mental health when it is such a taboo topic? That seems to be the attitude of many anyway.
When I tell people I have bipolar disorder, the most common reaction I receive is a question: “What is bipolar disorder?” This reaction astonishes me because 1 in 4 American adults suffer from mental illness, which means that, unless a recluse, everyone knows someone with mental illness. Why then do people know so little about the subject?
The answer is that we do not talk about it, even those of us who have mental illness (because society makes us feel ashamed to suffer from it). And when we do talk about it, it is often in ignorance. An example of this is Robin Williams’ death. Many people said it was selfish of him to commit suicide. That statement assumes that Robin Williams was in control of his thoughts when he killed himself. I assure you that he was not; he was mentally ill.
Talking about mental illness is important, but even more important is being educated about it. After all, how can we remove the stigma surrounding mental health if we speak about it in ignorance? Whether or not you have mental illness, I encourage you to educate yourself about the matter:
- Go to NAMI.org and read descriptions of the various mental illnesses.
- Follow bloggers who write openly about mental illness.
- Speak with people you know who have mental illness and ask them questions about it.
There is no excuse to be uniformed about mental health…not in this day and age. So change the world for the better by learning about it. Let’s remove stigma together.
Kylie blogs about mental health, dating and relationships, Christianity (as a non-Christian), and much more, with a focus on asking questions, at Journey of Kylie.