Why advocacy works: Take action against Stigma

One aspect a person suffering from mental illness truly values is the support and compassion that is encounter when joining a mental health group or a community in a local area, online, etc…

We live in a society where the term “politically correct” is often misused to the extreme of excluding and marginalizing individuals who are in disadvantage. I believe this is one of the roots of stigma, political correctness should be the platform for compassion and utter understanding on someone’s else feelings and ideas. But of course, things have gotten out of hand especially on social media, and a lot of people have suffered the critical backlash and often hurtful examinations of their ideas and personal beliefs.

Mental health awareness has found its way to reach out all of us who live in a society where we often feel we do not belong because of various reasons. To re-structure your entire routine to remain compliant with medicines, therapy, and coping skills it’s hard. To fight against everything and everyone that discriminates you requires a great deal of endurance.

The malicious roots of criticism can be so harmful, but certainly the unbreakable alliance of support from others makes life worth living. It elevates the soul to help others and share experiences, participation, action, but most of all, to take care of each other when things go down.

The diligence that a lot of mental health advocates bring it’s important. I can share my experience this last couple of days after a wave of evil campaigns on the internet and international headlines. Even though these trends aim to attack and create more stigma in order to sell and become relevant, mental health advocates have the passion to counteract and offer what these publication fail to share: Knowledge.

Knowledge is power, yes! advocates share facts, offer help, we know how to get that help, we know what it feels like to be rejected because of a diagnosis. We are the ones who recommend doctors, therapist, social workers, etc…the advice on what works for us, and what doesn’t. To learn and speak out it’s vital. We lend the mental health system our voice, we help policymakers understand the realities of mental health system in order to help families and others who suffer in silence. 

“Advocacy is an important
means of raising awareness on
mental health issues and ensuring
that mental health is on the national
agenda of governments. Advocacy can
lead to improvements in policy,
legislation and service
development.” World health organization, 2003

The development of mental health advocacy is vital because of the benefits it produces, as we know, mental health is not regarded with the same importance as physical health. It’s important to remember the lack of these services in some parts of the world. My two maternal uncles suffered from Schizophrenia and drug addiction their entire lives (they never recovered) in Honduras, where mental health at that time was almost not existent. They spent their lives between the asylum and prison, offering them little help with medications, counseling, and the strength to start over. They were treated as lunatics and a treat to the Honduran society. It took a toll on my grandmother’s life and in my life as well. This is one of the reasons I decided to advocate for mental health, for me, and for my grandmother as well, but most importantly to spread the word in what we call “third world countries” who desperately need our help.

Mental Health in the developing world video:

Want to join us in the good fight? Here’s how:

  • Join or start your local mental health group. Your voice matters!
  • Share your experience. I am a proud member of Stigma Fighters, A non-profit organization that features stories about people living with mental illness.
  • Learn, attend conferences and seminars.
  • Read up on mental health policies and write a letter to political representatives (members of Congress, senators, mayors, etc.) to educate them about mental illness or to offer your opinion on a specific policy.

Today is an important date for me. This day last year I was admitted to the Psychiatric Institute of Washington due to a suicide attempt. 3 days later I was transferred to Dominion Hospital for a week. It marked the beginning of a new phase in my life, to stand up against my diagnosis, to fight against the stigma surround it, and most importantly, to take care of myself for my family and others. There are so many people I’d like to thank for supporting me and encouraging me to keep going: My beautiful boys, Joshua and Lucio, you are my world! to Ross, we’ve been through a lot this year, ups and downs, fights, break ups, getting back together, starting over, but it’s all worth it because you have changed my life. 

Also, my new family, Marta Edmisten, Daniel Pirez, Dori Owen, and Nicole Lyons, Nicole you are such an inspiration to me even though the manner in which our lives came together it’s almost comical may I say! but it doesn’t matter because in the short time we have exchange messages, I’ve become very fond of you and cannot express the admiration I feel for you. Please follow these amazing blogs:

Nicole Lyons: http://thelithiumchronicles.org/

Marta Edmisten: http://bipolarfabulous.tumblr.com/

Dori Owen: http://arizonagirldiary.tumblr.com/

Daniela Pirez: https://bipmind.wordpress.com/  

 Mental Illness is nothing to be ashamed of. But stigma and bias ashamed us all. Bill Clinton.

3 thoughts on “Why advocacy works: Take action against Stigma

  1. This is beautiful, Stephanie. Happy World Bipolar Day. This is my favorite part, “The malicious roots of criticism can be so harmful, but certainly the unbreakable alliance of support from others makes life worth living. It elevates the soul to help others and share experiences, participation, action, but most of all, to take care of each other when things go down.”

    As for us, I feel the same way about you. I believe that people are meant to cross paths for a reason, and while ours was an odd path, I’m so thankful we made it.

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