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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.
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