When we say let’s stop the stigma around mental illness, what we’re really saying is, “Let’s stop discriminating against those who have mental disorders.”
People suffering from a medical condition are afraid to tell their bosses for fear of firing. Would that person feel the same way about telling their boss they had diabetes? When dating, some ask themselves, when is the right time to tell a prospective romantic partner that I have depression? Will they still love me when they know? Will my friends laugh when I tell them I have OCD. And, not the kind they kid about when they feel the need to clean their houses; but a debilitating kind that make me repeat over and over things like washing my hands.
People who live with a mental illness often feel shame about who they are and think that they are less than others and are mostly treated as such. Isn’t that the definition of discrimination?
So today, as we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. , who is honored for his fight against discrimination, let’s think about how we as a society discriminate against those with a mental illness. Let’s think about how each of us can fight this discrimination in our daily lives. Maybe we are brave enough to share our story of living with a mental illness? Can we listen with empathy to the stories of others? Can we speak up when someone says something inappropriate about mental illness? No more ‘crazy’ talk would make a big difference. Let’s honor King by honoring ourselves.
“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.” ─ Martin Luther King, February 4, 1968, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in speaking about how he wished to be remembered after his death
"March on Washington edit" by Photo by Warren K. Leffler