Insensitivity Contributes to Stigma

I saw an article talking about this tweet on Facebook just now. I realize it’s almost a year old, but the article, for some reason, was only written a few days ago.

The date is irrelevant though. It’s still a very important topic.

If you are aware of what OCD actually is, then you will understand why the girl was offended by this sweater. And to be honest I am too.

Two years ago, I probably would have laughed at it, but that was before I knew what OCD truly was. I admit, I was previously guilty of making OCD jokes, but now that I know what it is, I do not make them anymore, and I actually find them quite upsetting.

Reading some of the responses to @ReignMurphy‘s tweet, reminded me, yet again, how clueless people really are.

One insensitive tweet (I am not giving credit to the author!) read:

@ReignMurphy you’d think someone with OCD wouldn’t dress & look as stupid as u, I don’t have OCD but looking @ u would drive me nuts #growup

Yeah, because OCD means you can’t go out with short died hair and a sweater…? What?! That makes no sense.

There were also several responses telling her to lighten up and laugh it off and whatnot. Sure, it’s great to joke about our mental illnesses. In fact it often makes it easier to deal, especially when joking with people who can relate.

I have a friend with cerebral palsy and she often jokes about how it effects her daily life and has plenty of funny stories to go with it. She has several friends with cerebral palsy as well (some of who I have met) and when they get together they can make fund of themselves and have no problem with it. I can’t say I can relate to them in that sense, and I certainly wouldn’t go around making jokes about it, but they see the lighter side of it. At the same time, they will also stand up to people who do say inappropriate things about their disabilities.

The problem isn’t the jokes themselves. The problem is when uneducated people make these jokes, they are contributing to the stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness or disabilities or other illnesses and conditions (it’s not only mental illness that has this problem) and this often causes people who are suffering to continue to suffer in silence.

Because of society’s views on mental illness, we see these disorders as a weakness or character flaw, when in truth they are real, treatable conditions that many people struggle with. Most are manageable, and some people can even reach complete recovery from their mental illness. Yet, we are often afraid to open up and talk about them for fear of being judged or stigmatized. While logic tells us that we shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed, many of us have experienced the stigma and in a lot of ways that is harder to deal with than the illness itself. So we don’t speak up. And that’s a huge problem.

It was the stigmatization I experienced before I had any idea that I had anxiety and depression that prevented me from getting the help I needed. I remember as early as the first grade, right up through high school and college, several occasions where I was having a hard time with various things. I had very obvious signs of anxiety and depression, but being a child and having no education in the area of mental health, I had no idea what was going on.

As a child I relied on my parents and the adults in my life to support me, but I was told, countless times, to suck it up, get over it, stop being over dramatic or sensitive, etc. I was even told flat out, by my parents, that I didn’t have depression, when I mentioned symptoms from a commercial for depressionhurts.ca. That was about 5 years after I started exhibiting signs of depression, 4 years after one of my teachers called them in to my school to tell me I wasn’t as happy as the other kids in my class, and about 8 years before I was actually diagnosed. It was that experience, along with several others that stopped me from talking to anyone, including my doctor, about what was going on in my head, because I was convinced that I would, once again, be told I was making it up.

I’m not going to get into an argument with some random on the internet about this stuff, because it’s just not worth it, however, I do firmly believe that the general public’s language around mental health needs to change. People need to be more educated.

It’s still less than two years since I was initially diagnosed (the anniversary is getting close though) and it’s been a rough journey, but I am learning to pick my battles. I’m trying to be less sensitive, but I still feel very passionate about awareness and ending the stigma, so I am not going to stop talking about it any time soon.


October 2-8, 2016 is Mental Illness Awareness WeekSpreading Awareness, Reducing Stigma.

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