Yeah, I'm Talking About The 'S' Word
There are stereotypes for numerous of things. There are some people who look past the stereotypes, so they can have their own understanding or opinion on things. However, that's not always the case. If someone doesn't have enough knowledge about a topic then they might revert to stereotypes they are aware of.
Stereotypes start to lead to stigmas which then often leads to discrimination. I can sit here and list a lot of examples where this is the case. However, I am here to talk more about something that has affected me and that affects a lot of people with mental illnesses.
When you hear the word antidepressants, what's the first thing you think of? If you hear the word antibiotics, what's the first thing you think of? If I were to tell you that one of these types of medicines has a lot of stigma behind it, which one would you choose? If I were to guess, I'm going to guess you're thinking of antidepressants.
Why though? Both of these types of medicines are similar in what their purpose is for, which is to treat an illness. However, one of them people may feel like a failure for having to take. I'm going to take an educated guess that a person who is on an antibiotic for strep throat doesn't feel like a failure for having to take their medication. I mean, why should they feel like a failure? They're just treating their illness.
For some reason if a person is taking an antidepressant to treat their mental illness, people have a lot of judgement and things to say. This is for numerous of reasons such as lack of knowledge or lack of understanding. However, TV and movies have started to portray mental illnesses for what they truly are like to try to help reduce the stigma. I can think of two in the last year that have done a lot to bring more attention to mental illnesses. These two are, This Is Us and 13 Reasons Why. They haven't touched on mental illness medications yet, but they have done a lot for the mental health community.
Even despite someones increasing knowledge or understanding of antidepressants, some stigmas may be ingrained in your subconscious. I'm guilty of that! I realized that a few weeks ago. I was talking to my husband on how I kind of feel weak and like a failure for being dependent on my medication. His reply was spot on which was, "Why? Do you look down on someone who is diabetic and needs to take insulin?" I can't speak for other people, but my response was No.
Do I think other people, who are on antidepressants, are weak? Hell no, but that stigma is still there when it comes to thinking about myself. I am scared of being judged and possibly emotionally hurt by judgement... I am human (also with anxiety might I add).
I guess what I'm trying to get across is that medication is medication. No one should view you as weak for having to take it just like you shouldn't feel weak for having to take it. The bottom line is if there's a medication (your doctor prescribes) to treat or alleviate symptoms of a mental illness, there's no need to feel bad for taking it. It's helping you get back to a healthy state. I realize this is a long standing stigma, but as we encourage people to view mental illness medications like any other, we can help reduce the stigma. Reducing the stigma may also have positive affects on people's mental illnesses because it will also reduce their fears of being judged or rejected for having a mental illness.
When we continue to talk more honestly about mental illness medication, like we do with any other medication, it will help to take away some pain that people may be feeling.