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Get Loud About Your Mental Health

Have you ever wondered whether someone’s opinion of you will change if they get to know the “real you”? Have you ever kept some piece of information back about yourself because you are worried what people might think?

I have done this and I have done it often - fear of being judged is something all of us with a conscience worry about. But recently, inspired by others actions in this regard, I have started telling people a fundamental fact about me. I have a mental illness, major depression. That’s it, now you know too!

As a psychiatrist you might assume that this would be easy for me to talk about and  you would be wrong. Inside the medical profession the stigma around mental illness is just as strong, if not stronger, than in the general public. Fighting stigma requires those of us who have self-stigmatized to come forward and talk about it.

Self-stigmatization is what I do when I worry if people know this one fact about me, their perception will change and they will treat me differently. Although, I can rationally say this thought is untrue, it still has a hold of me and affects my behaviour. I find myself hesitant to ask people about their mental health for fear they will ask me about mine. I find myself reluctant to speak up when other people openly disclose their own mental health challenges.

I am getting loud about this topic right now because I suspect there are hundreds of people who do exactly what I do; they don’t talk about their mental health. Although they look after themselves, like I do, with physical fitness, getting enough sleep and socializing, and although they are successful in their careers, like I am; self -stigmatization still grips them by the throat, just like me.

What if we had a ‘talk about your mental health day’? One day when everyone talked about it at once so that none of us felt singled out? Would that help? Would you participate? That is what this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is about - getting loud.

 What are you doing this week to get loud about our mental health?