There is a luxury that people with well-known physical illnesses enjoy that doesn’t apply to those with a mental illness.
If you are diagnosed with heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or any other common physical illness, those around you will immediately understand what is happening to you.
That immediate (and complete) understanding will allow them to feel empathy, offer support and not judge. Stigma won’t even enter into their minds.
When you suffer from a mental illness, however, the majority of people in your life simply won’t understand.
Whether you have bipolar disorder, as I do, or depression, anxiety or any other mental illness, most people won’t have the faintest idea what you are going through. Many will have stigma in their minds, because of years of misinformation, because of a deep lack of understanding – and because of fear.
This leads to the most painful paradox facing mental illness sufferers:
Across the spectrum of mental illnesses one can experience, there is a wide variety of symptoms. However, one common thread among all of us while we are suffering is that our ability to communicate is drastically impaired. It is incredibly hard to explain to others how we are feeling, and what our symptoms are truly like.
Do you see the paradox?
The thing we need most is clear – unemotional, factually accurate communication on a complex topic. But how can we educate, raise awareness, reduce stigma and eradicate discrimination when the most effective way to do so is so difficult for those of us who suffer?
It is for this reason that, as someone living well with a mental illness thanks to effective treatment, I feel compelled to act.
In volunteering, blogging and founding Empower Professional Services, my goal is the same: to help others address the complex and challenging reality of mental illness stigma. I share my story through inspirational keynote lectures, and offer my expertise to corporate and educational clients.
I also seek out others who feel equally compelled to do the same. There are many who speak out and share their experiences and knowledge with a common goal to end stigma. When I find people who have managed to fight through the symptoms of their illness to offer clarity to others, I share their message here.
Just today I learned of a brilliant article published by Huffington Post and written by Gina Deciccio. Although her illness, anxiety disorder, differs in many ways from other mental illnesses, including the bipolar disorder I live with, Gina’s article finds many common challenges faced by ALL mental illness sufferers.
Gina also shares with humility and great clarity the many ways those in her life exacerbate her challenge, rather than help to ease her pain. She offers crystal clear ways for people who don’t fully understand mental illness to improve their responses and actions. Finally, Gina shares her vision for the future, which is full of hope – something everyone who wishes to live well with a mental illness must have.
About Jason Finucan
Jason Finucan is an inspirational speaker and expert on mental illness and stigma. He shares his personal experiences with both a major physical and mental illness during his impactful keynote addresses and workshops. Jason founded Empower Professional Services to partner with corporations and educational institutions so they may improve their ability to manage the negative impacts of mental illness – ultimately reducing stigma, creating increased knowledge and reducing lost productivity.