Mental Illness Doesn’t Define You

Meeting a newcomer at a playdate, you immediately get along, discussing everything from your favorite breast pump to your kid’s gluten-free diet.

After a while, it comes up that they are taking medication for depression. It throws you off because you have never met anybody with a mental illness.

You want to go back to talking about all the things you have in common, but you aren’t sure how to move forward. Do you need to treat them differently? Do you ask if they are safe with the kids?

The short answer is no.

There is undoubtedly many stigmas attached to the mentally ill population, causing those suffering from a condition or disease to feel ashamed, or even reluctant to seek help.

According to Psychology Today, stigmas “can translate into disrespectful, unfair, or discriminatory patterns in how we think, feel, talk and behave towards individuals experiencing a mental illness.”

Most of us don’t even realize that we are doing it. Automatic thoughts begin to flash through our mind about safety, dependence, and anything else society has told us about mental illness through the media.

The truth is that many people you run into throughout your day, or maybe in your own family have a mental illness.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that about 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental illness in a year; that is 43.8 million people!

Many diagnoses are undetectable by others, leaving the individual to deal with their illness alone, or with a mental health professional.

If somebody discloses the very personal topic of their mental illness with you, hear them out. A great friendship is not going to change simply because they let you into this part of their life.

For those not familiar with this field, the unknown can be scary. So, here are some ways that you can be sure to not let the mental illness label be all you see in a person.