“Hi, my name is Janice, and I’m bipolar.”

My name isn’t Janice, and I’m not biploar. But if someone were to introduce themselves to you that way, what would your reaction be? Would you cringe? Steer clear of her? Talk about her behind her back?

Sadly, the world still looks down on those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Instead of dealing with all of the negativity that comes along with being branded with a mental illness, many people prefer to suffer in silence. Instead of seeking treatment, they live in shame of something they have no control over.

But has the world’s perception of mental illness changed? Is mental illness accepted as the norm? It should be, when you consider it’s estimated that over 18% of the US population has a mental illness. And that number is a low estimate, considering that the term “mental illness” may not have included anxiety disorders or other common issues in that study (or others).

depMost of those people don’t get help. Sadly, it’s estimated that only 40% of adults afflicted with mental illness were treated in 2012. Part of the reluctance to get treated is the stigma that is associated with any type of mental illness. It’s estimated that 9 out of every ten people who suffer from mental illness are discriminated against. So, it should come as no surprise that three out of every four youths are afraid of how their peers will react to news of their mental illness. People who “come out” about their own mental illness often face ridicule and isolation.

Television and movies continue to perpetuate the stereotypes associated with mental illness. 63% of the references to mental illness in television soaps and dramas were negative and demeaning.

The stigma associated with mental illness has made it hard to find proper treatment. Medicare and Medicaid usually pay less for in-house mental health care than they do for general health care, making US hospitals reduce the number of beds for those with mental health needs. People are sent to the emergency room with mental health issues, but may be sent home because there are no beds available in the psychiatric unit.

Fortunately, things are looking up. With more people speaking out about mental health, it’s not as much as a taboo subject as it used to be. Organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association spread awareness about the issue with events like this week’s CMHA Mental Health Awareness Week. Starting today, you can join in on the annual event and start speaking up about mental health all week long.


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