Greetings friends. The following is an article that I submitted to the Talkbank Times. I thought I would share it with you. Maybe some of you can relate to my experiences. We need to eliminate the stigma attached to mental health issues. You, the media and myself can do our bit to challenge the stereotyping that revolves around mental health concerns. I thank you.
I live in a small town. Living in a small town, when your life is falling apart, word soon gets around. Due to series of overwhelming negative circumstances, I broke down. The onslaught of my mental illness, caused me to end up in a psychiatric unit, very close to this small town.
A visitor to the hospital noticed me and couldn't wait to spread the word. When I returned home, I was subjected to ridicule. "Hey nutter, out of the nut house" they would say, as they laughed. I ignored them, it caused me anxiety but I tried to move on to a better life.
The years rolled by. Yet even now, when I see someone who knows about my past, they become very uncomfortable. I will be in a shop, I smile at them, they blank me. It is very sad, do I scare them? How can I convince them that I am a harmless man? I have committed no crime. Maybe just maybe, they worry that the 'mental guy' might be having a bad day. Do they fear for their safety? Or do they fear that what they perceive about me, might happen to them?
People in this small town, who do not know about my past, are kind to me. I have a great laugh with them. Oh they might think of me being somewhat unconventional in my attitude towards life, yet I detect no fear. They relate to a guy who has the ability to make people happy. That is all I want to do, bring to people's lives a bit of joy. If only those who would pass judgement could understand that, yes I am ill, but I challenge my negative world.
Those that feel awkward around me are aware of the stereotypes that surround mental health issues. They are aware of the negative sensationalism that the media has often portrayed. So wouldn't it be nice if they could read a story about someone who has mental health issues, yet remained undaunted in seeking positivity? Wouldn't it be nice that they read a story about a lonely, desperate man who was determined to get better? What if they read it and realised the story was about that 'nutter' who causes them such anxiety? What if they started to understand? Now that would be sensational.
Please don't look the other way, I extend my hand of friendship. There is nothing to fear.