The Case for “Mental Cases”: Slashing Stigmas and Redefining Discourse  


Sometimes, it is not until you experience something for yourself that you truly realize all of its challenges. For those living with a mental illness, one of the many challenges is dealing with the stigma of being labeled as such. Whether it is an anxiety disorder, a mood disorder, or an eating disorder, an association of disapproval or disgrace it often made by those on the outside looking in. Historically, persons with mental illnesses have been feared and tortured, separated from the rest of society – and although stigmas involving mental illnesses may be showing signs of weakening, there is still a lot of learning to be done so that we may better understand and view mental illness for what it really is rather than what we may mistakenly believe it to be.

The first step to changing our thinking regarding mental illness is to realize that it is like any other medical illness. It exhibits symptoms and is diagnosable, it requires treatment and can be life-threatening, and yet it is not thought of or approached in the same way as a physical illness. In an eye-opening comic featured in The Huffington Post online, artist Robot Hugs emphasizes this by begging the question: what if people treated physical illness like mental illness? (insert picture)

Here he addresses the widely held misconception that people with mental illnesses can will themselves to get better by simply changing the way they think or by trying harder. You would not expect a person with a freshly dismembered hand to feel better by changing their “frame of mind,” nor should you a person with a mental illness; like with a bleeding wound, treatment is not so simple. He also touches upon the stigma surrounding mental health medications, which are often viewed as taboo but are in reality successful forms of treatment for many living with a mental illness. That we look down upon a person taking citalopram for their major depressive disorder and not a person taking insulin for their diabetes is something that must be talked about.

It is estimated that in any given year, approximately one in five adults experiences a mental health condition; that being said, it is likely that you, either directly or indirectly, are affected by one. So please, take the time to learn more about them. Check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness website (embed link?). Think twice before you discount one person’s condition over another’s. Only through education and understanding may we break down the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses and change the way we speak about them. They are a lot more common than you may think, and there are a lot of them to consider.

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