India Lott reflects on the selective acceptance of certain mental illness, how those with mental illness are treated, and her hopes for future discussions of mental illness. She questions the labels that often come with such diagnoses and expands upon the importance of understanding mental illness beyond isolating stigmas.
There has been a recent push for advocacy of mental illness, with many voicing their support of those suffering from it. It is a great thing to see, and perhaps it will be a comfort to someone who is thinking of seeking out help, whether they find it in the form of therapy or medication. There is no shame in it and there never should be.
But I must point out this new wave of acceptance seems to be given primarily to depression and anxiety, as well as seeming to end there. There are many disorders that are still considered scary, the symptoms misunderstood, and those who suffer from them horrifically demonised.
It does make sense to me that these disorders are the most accepted, as they are the most common. Both major depressive disorder and the various anxiety disorders (as “anxiety” itself is not a diagnosis) have a prevalence of about 3% worldwide. That’s around 530 million people in the world with either anxiety or depression.
There can be no diminishing of the suffering these disorders cause. They are disabling and a huge source of human misery, and there is still stigma surrounding them, one that can cut deep. But this is not the same type of stigma individuals with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, or schizophrenia may experience, and often do. The very names of these illnesses are used as slurs to discredit and degrade, and it silences those who suffer from them. Why would you willingly rank yourself among shooters and serial killers in the minds of others? Why would you open yourself to scrutiny about your experiences, ideas, opinions?
If you want to be a promoter of mental health, if you truly want to help, you can’t end your acceptance at depression and anxiety. I would like there to be conversation about the “scary” disorders. I would like everyone to be spared from feeling like they’re fessing up to a horrible flaw in their character or soul every time they talk about a diagnosis of this type, and free from the fear of judgement. I don’t want anyone to carry the burden of suffering in silence, condemned for things that are beyond their control.
But I think they only way to achieve this is to be open about it. There can be no acceptance without understanding, and it is true that from the outside it may be hard to understand what it is like to hear voices, have alters, or uncontrollable moods. That is why you need to be honest about your experiences and struggles. If you can speak up, speak up for yourself and those who can’t.
This black cloud has followed me for far too long, so let’s begin that conversation here, right now. I’m India Lott, I’m an artist and writer, and I have obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. I can’t be ashamed anymore because I’m not the only one who has to deal with this. So, I have to speak up. Maybe if I do someone can be helped. Maybe someone will listen.