A letter to someone who’s never heard of stigma
A year ago, I struggled with various mental illnesses - to the point where I couldn’t keep myself safe. I was admitted to Bellevue hospital in Manhattan, New York City, where the walls were whiter than white and one of the only comforts I found solace in was the composition notebook they gave me.
All of us patients were incredibly different, but we had one thing in common -
We were human, and we had suffered more than most.
Some time ago, a virtual reality horror show was released by the name of Fear VR 5150, a game featuring psychiatric patients. On the cover of the attraction, a patient is crawling on the floor with torn skin and entirely white eyes. They were portrayed as zombies.
The show gained many followers, and people loved it - its release led to many other shows starring the same concept - a psychiatric hospital with maniacal psychiatric zombies. It influenced others to believe that this was what a psychiatric patient looked like, acted like.
Let me introduce myself. I have brown hair and skin, lighter than coffee but darker than cream. I feel and I live. I cry and I smile, sometimes. I’m not a zombie. I’m human. I deserve respect.
This is the stigma, the false belief that people with mental illness are homicidal, dangerous, and insane. The belief that the rights of people who are mentally ill don’t matter. It exists because people don’t know the struggles of the mentally ill. In 2016, a schizophrenic woman with no gun, holding a pair of scissors, was shot twice by a police officer after he had discovered the truth of her illness.
There are millions of people living with mental illness and less than half of them receive care.
This is caused by stigma. People don’t fund hospitals and care centers because they don’t believe them to be important.
If we look at why people may believe these things, we find that it’s because they don’t know the truth of mental illness. How it tears people and families apart. How just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean they’re dangerous.
Right now, the mentally ill are portrayed as such - as dangerous, as erratic, described using words like insane and crazy. The media releases news, games, and other things that continue this pattern - we’re falling into a seemingly endless spiral of stigma.
Here’s a small way to help - stop using these words. Teach others about this misrepresentation.
Spread awareness as often as you can - it could be something as small as telling a friend or something as large as organizing a protest or boycott against items or games that worsen the stigma.
This stigma wasn’t created by the mentally ill, but we’re the ones who have to fight it. People aren’t getting the care they deserve, and they’re suffering.
For more access to care, to create a world kind enough for people with mental illness to want to live in, we have to take action. To break the stigma, we need to raise awareness.
We deserve to live in a world where people see people with mental illnesses as human. In a world where mental illness is treated and helped, rather than ignored and disdained.