Lifelines of Hearts and Ears | Teen Ink

Lifelines of Hearts and Ears

December 31, 2015
By shinelikastar SILVER, Ann Arbor, Michigan
shinelikastar SILVER, Ann Arbor, Michigan
5 articles 3 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illness is defined as a condition that impacts a person's thinking, feeling or mood.

Notice that this definition does not mention physical disability.

Notice that this definition does not state being mentally ill will make one violent or unpredictable.

Notice that this definition does not even remotely come close to how media has twisted and covered mental illness into being something dirty, something to be hidden at all costs, something to be ashamed of.

This, is stigma, a mark of disgrace branded upon a particular circumstance. Stigma exaggerates the difference between two groups of people, manipulating thoughts to become us versus them and using an arsenal of stereotypes to maintain social distance at all costs. So when the media portrays mental illness, they effectively give the public one perception-- one of stereotypes.

The reality of discriminatory practices results in secrecy and shame. Secrecy and shame results in withdrawal from society. Thus, discriminitory practices effectively hinder people from reaching out, severing their already strained lifeline for help. Many believe help means only pure will and self-discipline, maybe a couple doses of medication. Even those who are aware treatment requires extensive social support, can unknowingly perpetrate this stereotype of self-help. Statements such as “I hope you feel better” and “You’ll be fine in a few days” places blame heavily on a person when it is no fault of theirs. It is important to clarify that mental illness does not have an exact cause; it’s a combination of many factors including genetics, environment, and lifestyle-- not character defect or personal weakness. You can’t just suddenly “feel better” and it definitely won’t “go away” in a few days.

In addition to social barriers, financial barriers also inhibit those affected from receiving treatment. According to the Washington Post, 45% of untreated people list cost as their main barrier to mental health services. Even a federal study conceded there are “signficant limitations” on insurance coverage when it comes to mental health. 

Having mental illness does not mean someone is going through a “rough patch” or are just feeling a “bit down.” It’s a serious condition that requires treatment and more importantly, understanding. Empathy, not sympathy. Don’t ask someone how they feel and when they say “Not too great,” reply with an empty and fake “Oh, I hope you feel better.” Ask someone how they feel and truly listen to their response.

Listen with your eyes and ears which truly show a person as they are, not with your brain which constructs a person into who you think they should be. See the person, not the disease. Listen with the whole of your heart and all the compassion you could possibly possess. Every human being deserves to be heard. Listen because you can, because you should.


Listen, just listen.

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