It’s not an easy conversation to have- Mental illness. Some may see it as a personal weakness or a character defect, a very erroneous perspective. In fact, as from research, many of these conditions are caused by a miscellany of genetics, biological and environmental factors. It does not single out either, it can affect people of any age, income, educational level or cultural background. Mental illnesses are in fact more common than cancer, diabetes or heart diseases. We often shy away from speaking out of shame, guilt or stigma. For some, their toxic masculinity cannot allow them to utter the word itself. From fear of being perceived as frail.
I can list a buffet of types of mental illness. From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD), eating disorder, anxiety disorder, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, etc. Some tend to be more configured to a certain group of people. For instance, eating disorders is more common in females compared to their male counterparts. But who can blame them? With the media being a culprit for generating images that falsify the reality of human bodies. Today we are barraged with photos of today’s “beautiful women” in magazines, commercials, TV shows, movies and online photos. Petite being depicted as the epitome of “sexy” and “beautiful”. While some may try to squabble that having a ton of flesh like the venerated Kim Kardashian defies petite, the lack of cellulite and waist the size of a wasp portrayed by this said women scoffs logic. Many women hence end up battling anorexia and bulimia nervosa in silence. Talking about it prompts a feeling of shame, judgement and low self-esteem.https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml (check out the link to learn more on anorexia and bulimia nervosa)
Our brothers in the uniformed forces, predominantly the military are more afflicted by PTSD. The risk of death in their line of duty is factual every day, and the scenes they witness leave many distressed and traumatized. Keeping in mind, this is a section of the population that lives in segregation, in camps where their level of interaction is very low, and when it exists, the person you are interacting with is suffering equally or even worse. It doesn’t help that the society expects them to be strong and any sign of stress or anxiety from them is perceived as weak or ineffective at work. Many are left to suffer in silence. Some are even silenced by the forces they work for. One KDF soldier said he was once told to “toughen up, go home and have a beer; the feeling will eventually die”
Many will attest that in an episode of depression, the hardest thing was opening up and they would rather bottle up their feelings. Some may feel like opening up warrants them as attention seekers. The dismissive ignorant reply that. “everybody gets anxious, just get over it!” doesn’t help either. At work, one may fear losing their job or deals because opening up will declare them ineffective at work. In the talent industry, mental illness will deny you chances of getting booked all because of the negative stereotypes associated with it. The hurtful societal reactions and prejudice. The stigma. The nonsensical male pride that makes them feel less of a man for fighting mental illness.
Anyone who has had experience battling with mental illness knows the challenge of wrestling with their “demons” and reclaiming control of their lives. Talking about it raises awareness about ways to help. A problem shared is a problem half solved, or so the saying goes. Let’s loosen the grip and remove the stigma that is associated with mental illness. It is not a taboo neither is it a sign of weakness. Nobody should be repudiated an opportunity, taken less seriously, stigmatized, shamed, discriminated or be secluded, simply because they battling a mental condition. It’s more than just being “sad”. It is a disease that can be treated and everyone deserves to come out of the other end alive and blissful. It’s time to speak up! Opening up is the first step towards healing.