Using social media to handle stigma around mental illnesses

Using social media to handle stigma around mental illnesses

Braving mental illness is a feat in itself, but accepting its existence in front of others requires a lot of courage. Not because a mental disorder makes one dangerous, but because of the stigma attached to it, which comes from ignorance and wrong beliefs that label mentally ill people as threatening and leads to discrimination against people suffering from mental health disorders.

While one part of the society still looks upon mental illness as a menace, there are some who take to social networking sites to share personal accounts of struggle against mental illness. Instagram, a popular mobile-based online photo and video-sharing site, is now being used by designer Jessica Walsh to deal with such issues.

Walsh’s pet project “Let’s Talk about Mental Health” collects and collates personal stories replete with heart-wrenching details of those suffering from mental illnesses. It encourages them to share the stories of their battle against the illness.

Fighting stigma attached to mental illnesses

As opposed to funny snapshots and playful videos usually posted by the users on Instagram, there is something unusual about Let’s Talk about Mental Health. Walsh said that she was inspired to work on this project while working on “12 Kinds of Kindness,” in which she and her friend had set out on ways to be nicer to the society around.

While discussing about what made her start this unique project, Walsh wrote in her email, “When we formulated Step 4 of ‘12 Kinds of Kindness’, I immediately knew what I had to write about: my past struggles with anorexia, depression, and self-harm. I went through these issues for many years, but since I’ve recovered, I’ve kept them a secret from almost everyone.”

Walsh has uploaded 10 stories on the website and hopes to include more. Applauded by many as her triumph in the fight against stigma surrounding mental illnesses, Walsh added, “I realized I had been curating my public persona to only show certain sides of me, or the best moments in life. The truth is, my life can be messy and complicated, and I have ups and downs just like everyone else; I am no different.”

Reaching out to those who are suffering from serious mental disorders, but are afraid to share their ache and seek the necessary treatment, Walsh said, “The more people open up and share their stories, the more we can change people’s perspectives on these topics, end the ignorance around these disorders, and help end the stigmas attached to them.”

Challenging stigma around mental illness

Mental illness is one of the biggest causes of disability in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one in five adults in the U.S. suffers from mental illness in any given year.

The fact that millions of Americans are affected each year by deranged mental health conditions costing the nation billions of dollars in terms of lost work productivity is enough reason for the country to turn its attention to providing better and easy access to mental health treatments.

The prejudice that people foster in their minds can make the recovery process more difficult for such patients. And despite the fact that mental illness is so prevalent in the country, the social stigma only makes it more challenging and painful to seek the necessary and much needed treatment.

Seeking recovery

If you or your loved one is looking for treatment of any mental health disorder, the California Mental Health Helpline can help you with information. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 to seek the best guidance.