Those who live with mental illness are not all the same. They are not to be lumped into one group or meant to be labeled. They all have characteristics and diagnoses that are alike, but they don't exhibit the characteristics in the same ways as another person might. They are individuals that will display specific symptoms. Not all symptoms that are listed under a particular illness will even apply to every individual with that illness. Some may display more severe symptoms and conditions, whereas others may only display some or a less severe form of the illness. Due to each person displaying individualistic symptoms and characteristics, it makes diagnosing and finding a successful treatment plan extremely difficult.
What comes to mind when you hear that someone has a mental illness? Is a little part of you afraid or cautious? Does part of you automatically assume they're “crazy” and unstable? Or maybe you feel shocked because they don’t appear to fit society's image of a person who lives with a mental illness. They look and act just like everyone else. Well, that's because they are like everyone else. They are human who just happen to live with different obstacles than others may. Some people live with food allergies and can't eat certain foods, while some are diabetic and have to closely monitor their blood sugar. Those who live with a mental illness aren't much different when it comes to lifestyle changes. They may have to monitor their moods, eating habits, and even their stress levels so they don't have a relapse (mood swing, addiction habits, etc).
These reactions to mental illness are most certainly common when a person isn't familiar with mental health. This is why it is ultimately crucial to expand the education and awareness regarding mental illness and the truth of the person behind the illness.
Due to the stigma, some who live with a mental illness often refuse to share, speak openly about their illness, or even seek treatment that could save their lives due to what others may think and feel about them (or out of denial too, but that is a little different). They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, and weaker than others for having to seek professional help.
It is sad to think that so many will suffer each year out of fear of getting the appropriate help they need. We, as a society, need to work on making it okay and be supportive of those who may need mental health treatment. Denial of the existence of mental health, apathy, and lack of empathy will not make these illnesses disappear. It may only make matters worse.
So, the next time you hear or say “He/she is bipolar,” know that it is incorrect. He or she lives with bipolar is the more proper way of putting it because if a person has diabetes or cancer, you wouldn't say this person is diabetes or cancer. It is a condition that they happen to live with which involves treatment. Same rules apply for those who live with mental illness.
Mental illness is not as scary as it appears in the media. Just because a person who is said to have bipolar (or another mental illness) did a terrible thing that gets displayed nationally over the news doesn't mean that everyone who lives with that illness will end up doing the same thing.
People who live with mental illness are individuals and it affects each one of them in different ways. Have a heart, spread awareness, and help a loved one <3