The Battle with the Stigma Around Mental Health

Worth Living Ambassador Rachel Burridge

Hello, I’m Rachel from the United Kingdom and I am 22 years of age. I have been on a journey with mental health for seven years now and facing the stigmas and hush hush around it. I am to recover from my illness while helping others to recover as we all go on the journey together.
Mental illness is one massive battle in itself.

Before being diagnosed with mental illness, I had to battle with my mind, emotions, and actions daily for years trying to figure out why I was acting and feeling the way I did, why I couldn’t join in with certain activities or get on with simple tasks that other people I knew and grew up with could do naturally. I had to battle with not being part of a team, a group, a relationship, a friendship. Being able to grow up independently and grow as a person, growing into the person I was meant to be. Then after I knew there was something different about my thoughts and the way my mind worked I had to battle with mental health services to find the right doctor to refer me to mental health services. I had to battle with fears of talking to someone about my thoughts. I had to battle with opening up when I was such a closed book for so long and thought it was just ‘a phase’ I was going through. Then once I was diagnosed with mental illness I went onto battle with repeated therapy sessions opening up more doors that I had closed and shut away for so long. I battled with hidden dark memories I had once tried so hard to forget.

Recently I have had to battle with testing medication, trying to find the right one to keep my mind straight. Battle with suicidal thoughts, dark thoughts. Battle with the fact I can’t work right now, I can’t go out and do the normal things a 22 year old girl should be able to do…live life fully.

This up to now isn’t even the end of my battle. I continue to battle to find the right diagnosis for my condition, the right treatment, the right recovery, the right coping. This is one hard trip to hell and back but it compares nothing to the battles I have had to face so far especially the battle to make people believe that I am actually very ill.

The fact that mental illness is ‘the invisible illness’ one that is not seen so easy to the eye, not like a broken bone, a bad cut, an open wound, a nasty rash. It’s only seen by the person who is ill.

Mental Illness is the owner of a great and powerful stigma that needs to be banished! I’ve lost so many ‘friends’ and ‘relationships’ from the fact that I have not been believed that I am actually ill, that I am actually suffering. Sometimes this non- belief of the illness makes me question it myself ‘am I really poorly?’ ‘am I just lazy?’ ‘do I just moan a lot?’ ‘am I just over anxious?’ ‘is this just my personality to accept?’  The answer is no!

The fact that I have a diagnosis, that I have proof that I am in fact ill, that I need medication and therapy are enough proof that this is ‘real’. If the stigma around mental illness still makes me question it after all this time battling it, no wonder people are too afraid to speak out or get help. If the stigma was removed may be people wouldn’t be as scared or battle it alone anymore and be able to survive? Perhaps there would even be less suicides? It needs to end, the stigma needs to be lifted!

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