The following story features Ivy, a participant in our Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life mental health public awareness campaign. Told through the eyes of its participants, this campaign boldly challenges the misconceptions of what those with mental illness look like and is intended to spark conversation. To learn more, visit DeconstructingStigma.org.
An “evil roadblock.” That’s how Ivy describes mental health stigma.
It’s a roadblock, she says, that “makes people feel ashamed of the struggles they are going through every day and makes them afraid to seek professional help.” Ivy, who struggles with anxiety, hopes that by publicly discussing her mental health journey she can “show people that they too can speak up, be heard, and be part of the movement to normalize the face of mental illness.”
Of crucial importance to Ivy is removing the evil roadblock of stigma in the black community. “Being an African-American female,” she says, “I know all too well of friends and family who speak negatively of those with mental illness, with terms like ‘weak,’ ‘lacking in mental strength,’ and ‘crazy’ and those very negative statements were some of the statements that held me back from seeking the help I needed.”
She reports that “in our communities, it is frowned upon to get help, and most of the time people are encouraged to hold their feelings in or figure out how to deal with them on their own.” Ivy fears that “if we never express how we are feeling, our mental health will suffer even more in the long run for not seeking the help we needed earlier.”
From her own experience, Ivy knows how life-changing it can be to break through the roadblock and get help for a mental health problem. Facing self-doubt, severe anxiety, and thoughts of suicide, Ivy started seeing a therapist not long ago.
“Therapy truly saved my life,” says Ivy. “From therapy, I learned to value who I am, and I learned that I could give myself the validation that I was craving from others. I learned confidence, I learned to love myself and I gained a sense of self-worth. For me, I needed an outlet of someone to talk to who would be non-judgmental and truly help me to grow.”
Now, she wants others to take the steps they need to take to confront their mental health problems, break through the roadblock, and move toward a better life.
“I want people to see that those who have mental illness look just like you and me, and to realize that no matter how big or small what you are going through may seem, it is never too small of a problem to seek the help you need. I believe together we can break down the walls and stereotypes around mental illness.”