It was a short post and ended with the following questions:
There is one question I would like to add to this. Has the face of mental illness changed for you since your own diagnosis? Since your mother's, son's, best friend's, coworker's diagnosis?
I don't know if there ever was a 'face of mental illness for me'. Mental Health has always been a fascinating topic to me, I worked with (and as a teen baby sat) kids with various disabilities. One of my classes in high school covered some of these issues in the context of education for people with various health issues. Between my own interest, that class and hearing my mom speak about her job where she helps facilitate ways for people with various handicaps to stay in the workforce and get them the aid they need, I learned early on that the 'look' of any illness is so varied that you cannot put a real face to it.
There is not one stereotypical look of a depressed person, a person with bipolar, schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. In the blog post from last night another friend posted a picture of herself followed by 'This is my face. Can you tell by looking at me that I have a mental illness?'. I jokingly said that it must be her glasses that define her.
But isn't it true that so many times we as society want to define what any given category of people look or act like? As humans we want things to neatly fit into our little boxes. Preferably one box only for ease of understanding. We want to be able to understand things because the unknown scares us. It is so much easier if we can sort things neatly and without any problems. The not knowing scares us.
And that is where our old friend 'Stigma' comes to play yet again. That is why people are afraid to seek help. That is why we too often pretend to be okay when we are screaming for help on the inside. We don't want the facade to drop and too often that leads to people waiting to get help until they have no other choice BUT to seek help. As long as 'I' look the part (neat, tidy, productive), 'I' cannot have a mental health issue. 'I' am smiling so 'I' cannot be depressed... 'I' don't look or act like 'those' people that are on the news and on TV.
Those of us living with mental health issues in some shape or form have our work cut out for us if we want to lessen the stigma. It will mean that we need to show that people with mental illness look like the girl next door, the cashier at the supermarket, the star athlete from the pro-football team, the actor in hollywood. Because these ARE the people that deal with mental health issues. They more often than not act and look just like those who have not been affected.