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"Coming Out" About Mental Illness

The first step to Recovery is acknowledging that something is wrong. But what if you are too ashamed, scared or proud to acknowledge that something is wrong? This is when things can go awry, especially when it comes to mental illness, for which the results of denial can be very serious (even fatal). And with the stigma which still surrounds mental illness, it can make this issue especially difficult to accept.

Thankfully, there is a movement underway to decrease the stigma which surrounds mental illness. While public awareness on mental health issues has been happening for years as the subject of film, literature and drama, more recently it has been the subject of entertainment news and pop culture as more and more celebrities (many of them young) are “coming out” about their experiences with mental illness. Among those who are open about their lived experience (or that of a loved one) include: Demi Lovato, Wentworth Miller, Kristen Bell, Glenn Close, Alanis Morrisette, Roseanne Barr, among others.

As a queer person, I understand the sense of power that come from this sort of acknowledgment of an intrinsic part of oneself, and the relief that comes with it as well. And there is power in having positive role models with whom you can identify, especially in such a deeply personal way as mental illness. Furthermore, to be able to see examples of people surviving and thriving, as opposed to expiring (as is the case with many high profile individuals with mental illness) gives young people not only something to take solace in, but to take pride in. Like with being gay, it is a feature of who we are and how we tick – nothing to be ashamed of but rather part of who we are. With mental illness, there are certain treatments which may be needed to help someone live a stable life, but there’s nothing wrong with that either – again, it’s just comes with the package.

As mental health advocates, we need to be creating safe spaces for people to reveal what can be deeply personal aspects of their being. Part of this comes from applauding those who have the courage to share. I am so glad to see more and more people opening up about their struggles with mental illness and am hopeful about what this holds for the future.

3 Replies to “"Coming Out" About Mental Illness”

  1. VRuiz says:

    “Surviving and thriving, as opposed to expiring…” That is quite the quote! To see examples of people making light of their situation makes dealing with our own more purposeful, enlightening and that more empowering. Stigma is one hell of a roadblock and it’s so hard to get past it when you don’t have the encouragement and the positivity around so I hope that people are able to relate and find that special person who motivates them to push forward and acknowledge their power in their struggles.

    Thank you for sharing this. I know I have a duty to use my experiences (as triumphant or painful as they may be) as a vehicle to encourage others to find their courage, turn their darkness into light and move forward!

  2. VRuiz says:

    I had to come back to this. As I watched tons of Carrie Fisher inspired folks come out about their mental illness, I was so inspired. It was amazing to see so many of her fans follow in her steps and be so brave to tweet about their struggles, particularly with bipolar disorder.

    Carrie Fisher, a LEGEND, mostly known for her run as Princess Leia from Star Wars passed last week and while the world’s heart was full of shock and sadness, I know that a lot of people were taken back by the huge amount of love and support, especially from the mental health community. Our beloved Carrie was a firm advocate for mental health and spoke openly about her struggles. She used her platform to spread awareness and wanted to start a “Bipolar Pride Day.” Her wishes are on its way and the internet can be thanked for that…

    I know it takes a lot to “come out” about your struggles but to do it on the internet, is another ball game. Im so proud of everyone! There was a hashtag created (#InHonorofCarrie) that is still being used to help people open up about depression, suicide, anxiety, etc for THE FIRST TIME EVER. I know I’ve read and believed that celebrities can make all the difference, but my goodness.
    I also want to send out my condolences to her family. Not only did Carrie pass, but her amazing mother, Debbie Reynolds, has also. Both women have contributed to history in so many ways and they’ll forever be remembered. I remember Debbie playing the role of the fantastic witch grandmother from Halloweentown. She was just amazing.

  3. Luz.Feliz says:

    I feel like for me, it has become more about the concept of accepting the fact that there isn’t so much something wrong with me but rather that there are just some things that are part of life and are normal. I have changed my way of thinking into acknowledging that there are times where I am going to get upset, there are times where I am going to feel a little antsy and not know what to do with myself, but that is normal. I have found confidence and solace in the fact that I know for a fact there are professionals, governmental figures, celebrities, who experience the same things that I do. With this being said, I have come to feel that if so many people experience these things, are we the ones that are “not normal” or are the ones who do not feel any type of uneasiness throughout their day the ones that are struggling right now?

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