Stop the stigma, start listening

Arianna Davis

Arianna Davis

“I feel so depressed.”

You’re just being sad or more upset at a certain circumstance. Usually overreacting. “No big deal,” they say. “Everyone gets depressed.” Just don’t be so negative, alright?

“This makes my anxiety bad.”

You’re probably just being too shy. You need to step outside your comfort zone. Plus, everybody gets a little test anxiety, right? You’re no different.

“I’m not very hungry.”

You’re just a picky eater. Anyway, you should really put some meat on those bones. Looking anorexic is not attractive! You’re not a real woman unless you have curves. You’re not a real man unless you can bench X amount.

“This triggers me.”

Triggered? Don’t be so sensitive. You just get offended too easily. Lighten up a bit and take a joke! The test didn’t actually rape me, it’s just a joke.

“Everything is just a joke.”

“You need to take a joke.”

“You are a joke.”

Does any of this sound familiar? You’re not alone. Mental illness is often taken too lightly. It’s stigmatized and misunderstood.

But, when we find out about the next kid who took their own life, we think to ourselves, “Why didn’t they reach out? Why didn’t they get more help?”

Living in a world that disregards these symptoms, only to stuff people’s faces with medication that may or may not work and making it impossible to talk to someone about hurting themselves without fear of getting in trouble — reaching out for help can be incredibly scary.

It makes it that much harder when you start to believe everyone around you won’t take you seriously. People say you’re just overreacting and feeling something “everyone else feels too.”

Except, it doesn’t feel normal. It’s obvious that this is more than just feeling a little sad or having bad mood swings.

Mental illness needs to be taken more seriously. Signs from our peers need to be looked at more closely. Think about the jokes you make before saying them out loud; it’s not that hard to get rid of a few vocabulary words in your day-to-day life. What’s more important: making a harmless joke about someone’s illness, or taking a step to possibly saving someone’s life?

I used to be someone who made jokes about mental illness all the time. “The colors are different, I’m so OCD!” “Sitting in class makes me so ADHD.” “It’s retarded we have homework on the weekend.” In fact, these are all common things that people say without thinking much about it.

I didn’t think about it.

I thought to myself, “If these people are really offended by this stuff then they can’t take a joke.” But, it’s more than just a joke. It’s a “joke” at the expense of another person’s demise. It’s a joke that another person suffers from everyday. Most of them are just good about hiding it.

Before making another joke that targets someone else’s identity, illness, or real-life issue, think before you speak. If someone reacts to something you say negatively, instead of telling them to lighten up, get to know the person. Understand why they reacted that way. Be open-minded with them. You might be the next person or friend that can help them on their path to progress.

For those who are suffering, I hope all of us can gather the strength to reach out to a supportive friend or professional. There is so much more to life than what you are feeling in this moment.

Stop the stigma. Start listening.

Arianna Davis is a mass communication junior.

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